Post-fire recovery of ant communities in Submediterranean Pinus nigra forests
This study analyzes the variations in the structure and composition of ant communities in burned Pinus nigra forests in central Catalonia (NE Spain). Pinus nigra forests do not recover after fire, changing to shrublands and oak coppices. For this reason, we suggest that ant communities of burned P. nigra forests will change after fire, because the post-fire scenario, in particular with the increase of open areas, is different to the unburned one, and more favourable for some species than for others. In four locations previously occupied by P. nigra forests where different fires occurred 1, 5, 13 and 19 yr before the sampling, we sampled the structure and composition of ant communities with pitfall traps, tree traps and net sweeping in unburned plots and in plots affected by canopy and understory fire. The results obtained suggest that canopy and understory fire had little effect on the structure of ant communities. Thus, many variables concerning ant communities were not modified either by fire type (understory or canopy fire) or by time since fire. However, a number of particular species were affected, either positively or negatively, by canopy fire: three species characteristic of forest habitats decreased after fire, while eight species characteristic of open habitats increased in areas affected by canopy fire, especially in the first few years after fire. These differences in ant community composition between burned and unburned plots imply that the maximum richness is achieved when there is a mixture of unburned forests and areas burned with canopy fire. Moreover, as canopy cover in P. nigra forests burned with canopy fire is not completed in the period of time studied, the presence of the species that are characteristic of burned areas remains along the chronosequence studied, while the species that disappear after fire do not recover in the period of time considered. Overall, the results obtained indicate that there is a persistent replacement of ant species in burned P. nigra forests, as is also the case with vegetation.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: April 1, 2006