n African Entomology - A preliminary study of the effect of fire on ants (Formicidae) in a South African savanna




To determine the importance of different fire variables in promoting ant diversity in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa, ants were studied in savanna grassland patches of different post-fire fuel age, and fire frequency. Pitfall traps were set in six grassland sites representing three fire regimes (1 : young (<24 months post-fire) and frequently burned; 2 : young and infrequently burned; 3 : old (4 and 6 years post-fire) and infrequently burned). Species richness declined with decreasing fire influence, being greatest on young and frequently burned plots, and lowest on old and infrequently burned plots. There was pronounced dominance by a few species on young and infrequently burned plots, and greater equitability at other sites. Ant diversity appears to be influenced more by post-fire fuel age than frequency of burning, although there is a need for a wider range of fire frequencies and greater replication to explore this further. Species richness was inversely correlated with the proportion of foliage biomass at ground level. Southern African ant communities may be quite resilient to differences in fire regime, and only a limited amount of fire diversity (young old patches) may be necessary to maintain ant diversity.


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