Eur. J. Entomol. 114: 92-100, 2017 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2017.013

Succession in ant communities (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in deciduous forest clear-cuts - an Eastern European case study

Ioan TĂUŞAN1, Jens DAUBER2, Maria R. TRICĂ1, Bálint MARKÓ3
1 Department of Environmental Sciences, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu; Applied Ecology Research Centre, Dr. Raţiu 5-7, 550012 Sibiu, Romania; e-mails: itausan@gmail.com, trica_ramona@yahoo.com
2 Thünen Institute of Biodiversity, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Bundesallee 50, D-38116 Braunschweig, Germany; e-mail: jens.dauber@ti.bund.de
3 Hungarian Department of Biology and Ecology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Clinicilor 5-7, 400006 Cluj-Napoca, Romania; e-mails: balintm@gmail.com, mbalint3@yahoo.com

Clear-cutting, the main method of harvesting in many forests in the world, causes a series of dramatic environmental changes to the forest habitat and removes habitat resources for arboreal and epigeal species. It results in considerable changes in the composition of both plant and animal communities. Ants have many critical roles in the maintenance and functioning of forest ecosystems. Therefore, the response of ants to clear-cutting and the time it takes for an ant community to recover after clear-cutting are important indicators of the effect of this harvesting technique on the forest ecosystem. We investigated ground-dwelling ant communities during secondary succession of deciduous forests in Transylvania, Romania. Using space-for-time substitution, we explored a chronosequence from clear-cuts to mature forests (> 120 years). The object was to determine if cutting has measurable effects on ant community structure, and if ant species richness differs between successional stages. We recorded a total of 24 species of ants, 11 characteristic of forests and seven of open landscape. Ant species richness was higher in clear-cuts compared to closed-canopy and old stands. Number of ant individuals was highest in young age classes and lowest in closed-canopy age classes. There was no drastic change in species richness during the succession, however differences in community composition at different stages were recorded. Open landscape species are able to rapidly colonize following disturbance but disappear when the forest sites mature and many forest ant species are capable of surviving clear cutting.

Keywords: Hymenoptera, Formicidae, ants, deciduous forests, secondary succession, clear-cutting, community structure, pitfall traps

Received: May 7, 2015; Accepted: January 16, 2017; Published online: February 7, 2017

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