The diversity of ant communities (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and their connections with other arthropods from three temperate forests of Central Mexico
Ants have been considered useful for bioindication because of their ecological characteristics. Nonetheless, among the characteristics of a bioindicator group, there must be a consistent and replicable response to disturbance. In this sense, divergent reactions have been found, even between taxons narrowly related. The objective of this work was to compare the diversity of the ant communities in three different temperate forests with different levels of disturbance, and to correlate their abundance and diversity of species, with that found in other arthropod communities of the same forests. The work was carried out in three municipalities in the North of the State of Mexico, where three types of different forests were identified by their degree of disturbance. These types include: 1) primary forest (PF), with typical species of a conserved forest; 2) mixed forest (MF), with species of a conserved forest and a reforestation effort; and 3) reforested forest (RF), with species used in reforestation efforts and indicative of disturbance. In each sample, an area of 2 500 m2 was selected. Each area had 16 pitfalls apiece and they were placed 10 m away from each other. Samples were collected twice; one from February through March 2009 (dry season) and another from August through September 2010 (rainy season), which produced a total of 192 traps. Obtained specimens were identified at the most taxonomically specific level. All data captured was transformed to √n + 0.5 and diversity index levels of Shannon and Simpson were calculated, as well as richness of species for ants, beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, and spiders. The values of richness, diversity, and abundance were correlated with the Pearson coefficient, and to evaluate possible causal relationships between these, a path analysis was performed. Results suggested an important influence of the site over ant communities, and values of richness, abundance and diversity were correlated with the communities of spiders, beetles, grasshoppers and true bugs, but not for all the sites studied. Responses to environmental changes are not only on the numeric proportions of abundance, richness and diversity, but also in the indirect and casual ecological interactions. Finally, the data seems to indicate that the responses of the ants to the environmental changes are not necessarily reflected on other organisms’ communities, so the ants’ role as bioindicators can be limited.