Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (4): 681-689, 2008 | 10.14411/eje.2008.092

Establishment of ant communities in forests growing on former agricultural fields: Colonisation and 25 years of management are not enough (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Wouter DEKONINCK, Konjev DESENDER, Patrick GROOTAERT
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Department Entomology, Vautierstraat 29, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium;

Ants are often considered as good indicators of change of management in different habitats. They have been used sporadically to evaluate large scale transformations involving reafforestation. In the present study, the ant assemblages at 15 forest sites are compared. The sites differ in history, age and forest management. Our results show that there are clear changes in ant assemblages with developmental stage but even after 25 years not all forest species are present. Natural succession and planting of trees with or without any other management, resulted in only open country species, and some from forest and wet grassland colonizing these new forests. Sometimes gynes of target forest species arrived in new forests from nearby mature forest, but apparently were unable to start a colony. We attribute this findings to the lack of appropriate vegetation structure and litter characteristics, which determines the forest ant fauna, more than the dispersal of ant gynes. Further investigations should enable us to predict if these conditions can be produced by 50-100 or more years of forest succession and adequate management.

Keywords: Formicidae, diversity, community structure, afforestation, plantation, natural succession, former agricultural fields

Received: November 29, 2007; Accepted: February 27, 2008; Published: October 24, 2008

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