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A Pugnacious ant (Anoplolepis custodiens) confounds ant assemblage responses to bush encroachment
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  • Thinandavha Munyai,
  • Stefan Foord,
  • Rob Slotow,
  • Nomathamsanqa Mkhize
Thinandavha Munyai
University of KwaZulu-Natal College of Agriculture Engineering and Science
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Stefan Foord
University of Venda
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Rob Slotow
University of KwaZulu-Natal College of Agriculture Engineering and Science
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Nomathamsanqa Mkhize
University of KwaZulu-Natal College of Agriculture Engineering and Science
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Abstract

Habitat structure is a key determinant of variation in biodiversity. The effects of increased vertical and horizontal vegetation structure can result in marked shifts in animal communities. This is particularly true for ants in response to woody thickening, with predicted negative impacts on ant diversity. We used pitfall traps to study the response of epigeic ants in two co-occurring dominant habitats (closed and open) of an African savanna biome experiencing extensive woody thickening. Although species richness was higher in open habitats, evenness was significantly lower. Thickening explained significant amounts of variation in ant composition, but site-specific characteristics and seasonality were more important. These site-specific characteristics were largely linked to Anoplolepis custodiens, a species that were locally abundant in open habitats with clayey soils, where they often accounted for more than 90% of all ant activity. As A. custodiens also responds positively to disturbance, indiscriminate bush clearing could lead to knock on effects associated with the numerical and behavioural dominance of this species.

Peer review status:IN REVISION

24 Nov 2020Submitted to Land Degradation & Development
25 Nov 2020Assigned to Editor
25 Nov 2020Submission Checks Completed
05 Dec 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
22 Dec 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
06 Jan 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor