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Limited effects of fire disturbances on the species diversity and structure of ant-plant interaction networks in Brazilian Cerrado

Fagundes, Roberth, Lange, Denise, Anjos, Diego Vinícius, Paixão de Lima, Filipe, Nahas, Larissa, Corro, Erick J., Gomes Silva, Pricila Bonifácio, Del-Claro, Kleber, Ribeiro, Sérvio Pontes, Dáttilo, Wesley
Acta oecologica 2018 v.93 pp. 65-73
Formicidae, cerrado, ecosystems, grasslands, nectaries, savannas, species diversity
Fire is one of the main natural disturbances in Tropical Savannas, changing the diversity of species, altering the structure of species interactions, and driving the evolution of adaptations. Here, we investigated the effects of fire disturbance on interactions between ants and plants with extrafloral nectaries in Cerrado (Brazilian Savanna). We carried out the study in two different ecosystems of Brazilian Cerrado 700 km apart; Woody Cerrado and Rupestrian Grasslands. We conducted a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) experiment, in which the impact was the disturbance caused by fire. In Woody Cerrado, we found no evidence of fire affecting the diversity and composition of plants or its interactions. Fire also did not affect ant diversity but changed the interaction pattern of its interactions by reorganizing the paired interactions between species (i.e., rewiring). However, this effect did not result in changes on the overall structure of the network. In Rupestrian Grasslands, fire also did not affect the diversity and composition of plant species or its interactions, but it did increase the number of ant species and change its composition, leading to a reorganization of the its paired interactions. However, these fire disturbances in the ant level did not affect the overall structure of the network. Our findings indicate that the structure of ant-plant interaction networks is robust to fire disturbances, more in Woody Cerrado than Rupestrian Grasslands, confirming our hypothesis that ant-plant interactions in Cerrado are adapted to fire disturbances. In sum, our study enhances the understanding of the effects of environmental disturbances and the stability of the ant-plant interactions in fire-adapted ecosystems such as Brazilian Cerrado.