Effect of fire on ant assemblages in brazilian cerrado in areas containing vereda wetlands
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Cerrado is a biome whose evolution is intimately influenced by constant fire events. Although many species are capable of dealing with this predictable impact, many others may be negatively affected, resulting in community changes after fire. Using ants as bioindicators of changes in biodiversity and environmental conditions, this study evaluated the effects of fire in two Cerrado vegetation types: "cerrado" sensu stricto, a xeric savanna, and wetland "veredas", a mesic vegetation on floodable soils, where water concentrates and ultimately flows towards rivers. We examined the effects of fire on both habitats in two independent sites, but with special consideration to the wetlands, which are not fully adapted to fire. Ant sampling was conducted twice before and twice after a fire event, using 288 baits and 416 pitfall traps (soil and arboreal), and 16 hand collections along three random replicate transects per area. Ant species richness and abundance were resilient to fire, and exhibited a remarkably consistent seasonal variation at unburned and burned sites. On the other hand, the fire markedly changed the ant species composition. In the wetlands, the fire spread underground due to the high concentration of peat. The impact on ant assemblages was substantial and visually perceptible for some species like Camponotus rufipes, which suffered a considerable reduction in the number of individuals after fire in this habitat. In the cerrado, a similar result was observed for Crematogaster nr. obscurata, which disappeared after fire. The wetland vegetation having little adaptation to fire, plus low resilience in the ant community resulted in a severely changed fauna, both in guild predominance and species composition, and return to an original state is uncertain.
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