Abstract

Deforestation in Amazon forests is one of the main causes for biodiversity loss worldwide. Ants are key into the ecosystem because act like engineers; hence, the loss of ants’ biodiversity may be a guide to measure the loss of essential functions into the ecosystems. The aim of this study was to evaluate soil ant’s richness and to estimate whether higher taxa levels (Subfamily and Genus) can be used as surrogates of species richness in different vegetation types (fallows, old-growth forests and agroforestry systems) in Eastern Amazon. The samples were taken in 65 areas in the Maranhão and Pará States in the period 2011-2014. The sampling scheme followed the procedure of Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility (TSBF). Initially, the vegetation types were characterized according to their age and estimated species richness. Linear and exponential functions were applied to evaluate if higher taxa can be used as surrogates and correlated with the Pearson coefficient. In total, 180 species distributed in 60 genera were identified. The results showed that ant species richness was higher in intermediate fallows (88) and old secondary forest (76), and was lower in agroforestry systems (38) and mature riparian forest (35). The genus level was the best surrogate to estimate the ant’s species richness across the different vegetation types, and explained 72-97 % (P < 0.001) of the total species variability. The results confirmed that the genus level is an excellent surrogate to estimate the ant’s species richness in the region and that both fallows and agroforestry systems may contribute in the conservation of Eastern Amazon ant community.

Keywords: surrogates, conservation, rapid richness assessment, Amazon, taxonomy.