Vegetation structure, ecological stability, and low-disturbance regime of abandoned dry grasslands support specific ant assemblages in Central Slovakia

TUEXENIA (Impact Factor: 1.56). 02/2011; 31:301-315.


Compared to other grassland types across Slovakia, dry grasslands harbour species-rich and specialised ant communities. High diversity and species richness of ants may be seen as a consequence of (i) the specific structure of dry grassland vegetation, (ii) long-term ecological stability, and (iii) currently low or absent management-induced disturbance. With special regard to dry grasslands, we report on structural characteristics of vegetation and low-disturbance regime, which contribute to ant assemblage structure. Our study was carried out in the Štiavnické Vrchy Mts. (Central Slovakia), a region with a historically well-developed grassland area. We established a set of 25 research plots within southorientated grassland habitats representing five different grassland types: wet managed and wet abandoned grasslands, mesic managed and mesic abandoned grasslands (Arrhenatherion elatioris), and dry abandoned grassland habitats (Asplenio-Festucion glaucae). Each habitat type was represented by five plots. At each plot, a set of ten pitfall traps was used to sample ground-foraging ant assemblages. Around each trap, structural characteristics of vegetation and microhabitat were assessed. Dry grasslands were shown to have a specific microhabitat structure, characterised by the presence of a well-developed moss and lichen layer, exposed bedrock, bare soil, and significantly lower, although species-rich vege -tation. Besides the specific microhabitat structure, the absence of management may have contributed to the distinctiveness of these ant assemblages compared to those associated with other grassland categories. Ant assemblages were more species-rich, and the activity of ants was higher in recently abandoned grassland habitats. The effect of abandonment was quite opposite for plants, whose species-richness was, contrary to ants, higher within managed sites.

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    • "On the other hand, species like Myrmica sabuleti were recorded in higher frequencies and activities from the later stages. Abandoned grasslands can play a crucial role for the preservation of temperate grassland ant communities in Central Europe (see also Wiezik et al. 2011). However, the challenge in using abandoned grasslands for the conservation of grassland ant species remains in the need to limit the natural woody plant encroachment to relatively low levels. "

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    • "The papers included in this Special Feature mainly derive from the conference in Smolenice, supplemented by some additional contributions from EDGG members. A companion Special Feature with further contributions from the conference is published in the German geobotanical journal Tuexenia (Janišová et al. 2011; Petřík et al. 2011; S ˇ kodová et al. 2011; Wiezik et al. 2011; Willner 2011 "
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