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Taxonomic and functional ant diversity along a secondary successional gradient in a tropical forest

Rocha‐Ortega, Maya, Arnan, Xavier, Ribeiro‐Neto, José Domingos, Leal, Inara R., Favila, Mario E., Martínez‐Ramos, Miguel
Biotropica 2018 v.50 no.2 pp. 290-301
Formicidae, chronosequences, fauna, feeding behavior, flora, forest management, functional diversity, old-growth forests, rare species, secondary forests, secondary succession, species diversity, tropical forests, Mexico
The taxonomic diversity (TD) of tropical flora and fauna tends to increase during secondary succession. This increase may be accompanied by changes in functional diversity (FD), although the relationship between TD and FD is not well understood. To explore this relationship, we examined the correlations between the TD and FD of ants and forest age in secondary forests at the α‐ and β‐diversity levels using single‐ and multi‐trait‐based approaches. Our objectives were to understand ant diversity patterns and to evaluate the role of secondary forests in the conservation of biodiversity and in the resilience of tropical forests. Ant assemblages were sampled across a chronosequence in the Lacandon region, Mexico. All species were characterized according to 12 functional ecomorphological traits relevant to their feeding behavior. We found that TD and FD were related to forest age at the alpha level, but not at the beta level. α‐functional richness and divergence increased linearly with species richness and diversity, respectively. Also, the relationship between taxonomic and functional turnover was linear and positive. Our results indicated that functional traits were complementary across the chronosequence. The increase in FD was mainly driven by the addition of rare species with relevant traits. The older secondary forests did not recover all of the functions of old growth forest but did show a tendency to recovery. Because older successional stages support more TD and FD, we suggest developing agriculture and forestry management practices that facilitate rapid post‐agricultural succession and thereby better preserve the functionality of tropical forests.