Eur. J. Entomol. 108 (3): 417-423, 2011 | 10.14411/eje.2011.053

Short term response of ants to the removal of ground cover in organic olive orchards

Mercedes CAMPOS1, Luisa FERNÁNDEZ1, Francisca RUANO3, Belén COTES1, Manuel CÁRDENAS1, Juan CASTRO2
1 Department of Environmental Protection, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, (CSIC) C/Profesor Albareda n° 1, 18008 - Granada, Spain; e-mail: mercedes.campos@eez.csic.es
2 IFAPA Centro Camino de Purchil, CAP (Junta de Andalucia), P.O. Box 2027, 18080 - Granada, Spain
3 Department of Animal Biology, University of Granada, 18071 - Granada, Spain

Ants are the most abundant group of soil arthropods in olive groves where they are involved in various trophic relationships of great importance for crops. The system of soil management is one agricultural practice that has a great effect on ants, so the objective of this study was to compare ant populations in organic olive orchards with a ground cover of natural vegetation and others where this natural vegetation is mechanically removed at the beginning of June. Ants were sampled using pitfall traps at 14, 30, 70 and 90 days after the removal of the ground vegetation. Overall, ant biodiversity did not change. However, changes were observed in the abundance of ant species, in particular, in those species that build shallow nests in the soil, both between the rows of trees and under the canopy of olive trees. In contrast, deep nesting species, such as Messor barbarus, were not affected. The response also differed between the various genera: the abundance of Cataglyphis increased, due to there being more of the species C. rosenhaueri, while there was a significant fall in Aphaenogaster, due to the decline in abundance of A. senilis. Thirty days after the removal of vegetation, the response of most of the genera was clearly noticeable, due to the increased activity of workers, and in some cases there were still differences after 90 days.

Keywords: Hymenoptera, Formicidae, disturbance, biodiversity, soil management

Received: December 22, 2010; Accepted: March 26, 2011; Published: July 1, 2011

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