Abstract

Fire occurrences are a common perturbation in Cerrado ecosystems, and may differently impact the local biodiversity. Arthropods are one of the taxa affected by fires, and among them, ants are known as good bioindicators. We aimed to evaluate the effect of anthropic fires on epigaeic and hypogaeic ant communities (species richness and composition) in Cerrado areas with different post-fire event recovery periods. We conducted the study in four Cerrado areas during two weeks of 2012 dry season: one unburned and three at different post-fire times (one month, one and two years). We sampled ants with pitfall traps in epigaeic and hypogaeic microhabitats. We collected 71 ant morpho-species from 25 genera. In the epigaeic microhabitat we sampled 56 morpho-species and 42 in the hypogaeic microhabitat. The area with the shortest recovery time presented lower epigaeic ant species richness (4.3 ± 2.00) in comparison to the other areas (8.1 ± 2.68 species on one year area; 10.3 ± 2.66 species on two years area; 10.4 ± 2.31 species on control area), but recovery time did not affect hypogaeic ant species richness. Regarding ant species composition, fire did not directly affect hypogaeic ant species, which remained the same even one month after fire event. However, two years were not enough to reestablish ant species composition in both microhabitats in relation to our control group samples. Our study is the first to assess anthropic fire effects upon epigaeic and hypogaeic ants communities; highlighting the importance of evaluating different microhabitats, to more accurately detect the effects of anthropic disturbances in biological communities. We concluded that ant communities are just partially affected by fire occurrences, and epigaeic assemblages are the most affected ones in comparison to hypogaeic ants. Furthermore the study provides knowledge to aid in the creation of vegetation management programs that allow Cerrado conservation.

Keywords: anthropic burning, brazilian savannah, post-fire recovery, conservation, bioindicators.