The effects of fire on ant trophic assemblage and sex allocation

Caut S., Jowers M.J., Arnan X., Pearce-Duvet J., Rodrigo A., Cerda X., Boulay R.R. (2014) The effects of fire on ant trophic assemblage and sex allocation. Ecology and Evolution. 4: 35-49.
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Doi: 10.1002/ece3.714

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Fire plays a key role in ecosystem dynamics worldwide, altering energy flows and species community structure and composition. However, the functional mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood. Many ground-dwelling animal species can shelter themselves from exposure to heat and therefore rarely suffer direct mortality. However, fire-induced alterations to the environment may change a species' relative trophic level within a food web and its mode of foraging. We assessed how fire could affect ant resource utilization at different scales in a Mediterranean forest. First, we conducted isotopic analyses on entire ant species assemblages and their potential food resources, which included plants and other arthropods, in burned and unburned plots 1 year postfire. Second, we measured the production of males and females by nests of a fire-resilient species, Aphaenogaster gibbosa, and analyzed the differences in isotopic values among workers, males, and females to test whether fire constrained resource allocation. We found that, in spite of major modifications in biotic and abiotic conditions, fire had little impact on the relative trophic position of ant species. The studied assemblage was composed of species with a wide array of diets. They ranged from being mostly herbivorous to completely omnivorous, and a given species' trophic level was the same in burned and unburned plots. In A. gibbosa nests, sexuals had greater δ15N values than workers in both burned and unburned plots, which suggests that the former had a more protein-rich diet than the latter. Fire also appeared to have a major effect on A. gibbosa sex allocation: The proportion of nests that produced male brood was greater on burned zones, as was the mean number of males produced per nest with the same reproductive investment. Our results show that generalist ants with relatively broad diets maintained a constant trophic position, even following a major disturbance like fire. However, the dramatically reduced production of females on burned zones compared to unburned zones 1 year postfire may result in considerably reduced recruitment of new colonies in the mid to long term, which could yield genetic bottlenecks and founder effects. Our study paves the way for future functional analyses of fire-induced modifications in ant populations and communities. © 2013 The Authors.

Llegeix més

Two thresholds determine climatic control of forest fire size in Europe and northern Africa

Loepfe L., Rodrigo A., Lloret F. (2014) Two thresholds determine climatic control of forest fire size in Europe and northern Africa. Regional Environmental Change. 14: 1395-1404.
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Doi: 10.1007/s10113-013-0583-7

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Fire weather indices predict fire extent from meteorological conditions assuming a monotonic function; this approach is frequently used to predict future fire patterns under climate change scenarios using linear extrapolation. However, the relationship between weather and fire extent may potentially depend on the existence of fuel moisture content thresholds above which this relationship changes dramatically, challenging this statistical approach. Here, we combine the continuous and the threshold approaches to analyze satellite-detected fires in Europe during 2001-2010 in relation to meteorological conditions, showing that fire size response to decreasing fuel moisture content follows a ramp function, i.e., with two plateaus separated by a phase of monotonic increase. This study confirms that at continental and high-resolution temporal scales, large fires are very unlikely to occur under moist conditions, but it also reveals that fire size stops to be controlled by fuel moisture content above a given threshold of dryness. Thus, fuel moisture content control only applies when fire is not limited by other factors such as fuel load, as large fires were virtually absent during the considered period in dry regions with less than 500 mm of average annual precipitation, i.e., low-productive areas where fuel amount would be scarce and discontinuous. In regions with sufficient fuel, other factors such as fire suppression or fuel discontinuity can impede large fires even under very dry weather conditions. These findings are relevant under current climatic trends in which the fire season length, in terms of number of days with drought code values above the observed thresholds (break points), is increasing in many parts of the Mediterranean, while it is decreasing in eastern Europe and remains unchanged in central Europe. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Llegeix més

Post-fire selective thinning of Arbutus unedo L. coppices keeps animal diversity unchanged: The case of ants

Quevedo L., Arnan X., Boet O., Rodrigo A. (2014) Post-fire selective thinning of Arbutus unedo L. coppices keeps animal diversity unchanged: The case of ants. Annals of Forest Science. 71: 897-905.
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Doi: 10.1007/s13595-014-0381-5

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Context: In the Mediterranean area, different post-fire management strategies are used for coppices of resprouting species to promote a more regular forest structure, enhance plant growth, and reduce fire risk. However, the effects of these management treatments on forest-associated fauna are unknown, which in turn could be limiting their beneficial effects.Aims: The aim of this work was to determine whether forest management of a recently burned area dominated by a vigorous resprouting tree species (Arbutus unedo L.) affects ant communities.Methods: Ant communities, sampled using pitfall traps, were examined from unmanaged and selective thinning coppices of A. unedo. Ants are here used as bioindicators of ecosystem health and surrogates for other animal groups.Results: Very limited effects of these post-fire management strategies on the structure and composition of ant communities were found. The lack of effects could be due to the reported small changes in physical conditions among treatments; or either, the most sensitive ant species to these post-fire management treatments might be the same ones affected by fire and, consequently, the ant species that would potentially be affected most were no longer in the study area.Conclusion: The lack of any significant effects caused by these post-fire management practices on the associated fauna of A. unedo coppices points out the suitability of these treatments in these circumstances. © 2014, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.

Llegeix més

Determinants of spatial distribution in a bee community: Nesting resources, flower resources, and body size

Torne-Noguera A., Rodrigo A., Arnan X., Osorio S., Barril-Graells H., Da Rocha-Filho L.C., Bosch J. (2014) Determinants of spatial distribution in a bee community: Nesting resources, flower resources, and body size. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097255

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Understanding biodiversity distribution is a primary goal of community ecology. At a landscape scale, bee communities are affected by habitat composition, anthropogenic land use, and fragmentation. However, little information is available on local-scale spatial distribution of bee communities within habitats that are uniform at the landscape scale. We studied a bee community along with floral and nesting resources over a 32 km2 area of uninterrupted Mediterranean scrubland. Our objectives were (i) to analyze floral and nesting resource composition at the habitat scale. We ask whether these resources follow a geographical pattern across the scrubland at bee-foraging relevant distances; (ii) to analyze the distribution of bee composition across the scrubland. Bees being highly mobile organisms, we ask whether bee composition shows a homogeneous distribution or else varies spatially. If so, we ask whether this variation is irregular or follows a geographical pattern and whether bees respond primarily to flower or to nesting resources; and (iii) to establish whether body size influences the response to local resource availability and ultimately spatial distribution. We obtained 6580 specimens belonging to 98 species. Despite bee mobility and the absence of environmental barriers, our bee community shows a clear geographical pattern. This pattern is mostly attributable to heterogeneous distribution of small (<55 mg) species (with presumed smaller foraging ranges), and is mostly explained by flower resources rather than nesting substrates. Even then, a large proportion (54.8%) of spatial variability remains unexplained by flower or nesting resources. We conclude that bee communities are strongly conditioned by local effects and may exhibit spatial heterogeneity patterns at a scale as low as 500-1000 m in patches of homogeneous habitat. These results have important implications for local pollination dynamics and spatial variation of plant-pollinator networks. © 2014 Torné-Noguera et al.

Llegeix més

Response of ant functional composition to fire

Arnan X., Cerda X., Rodrigo A., Retana J. (2013) Response of ant functional composition to fire. Ecography. 36: 1182-1192.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2013.00155.x

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Little is known about the impact of disturbances on functional diversity and the long-term provisioning of ecosystem services, especially in animals. In this work we analyze the effect of wildfire on the functional composition of Mediterranean ant communities. In particular, we asked whether a) fire changes functional composition (mean and dissimilarity of trait values) at the community level; and b) such fire-induced functional modification is driven by changes in the relative abundance-dominance of species or by a replacement of species with different traits. We sampled ant communities in burned and unburned plots along 22 sites in a western Mediterranean region, and we computed two complementary functional trait composition indices ('trait average' and 'trait dissimilarity') for 12 functional traits (related to resource exploitation, social structure and reproduction) and with two different datasets varying in the way species abundance is considered (i.e. abundance and occurrence data). Our results suggest a set of functional responses that seem to be related to direct mortality by fire as well as to indirect fire-induced modifications in environmental conditions relevant for ants. Trait average of colony size, worker size, worker polymorphism and the ratio between queen and worker size, as well as the trait dissimilarity of the proportion of behaviorally dominant species and of liquid food consumption, and overall functional diversity, were higher in burned than in unburned areas. Interestingly, different patterns arise when comparing results from abundance and occurrence data. While the response to fire in trait averages is quite similar, in the case of trait dissimilarity, the higher values in response to fire are much more marked when considering occurrence rather than abundance data. Our results suggest that changes in trait average are driven at the same time by replacement of species with different traits and by changes in the relative abundance-dominance of species, while fire promotes a higher diversity of functions that is primarily driven by rare species that are functionally unique. Overall, we observed major fire-induced changes in functional composition in Mediterranean ant communities that might have relevant consequences for ecosystem processes and services. © 2013 The Authors.

Llegeix més

Forest fire occurrence increases the distribution of a scarce forest type in the Mediterranean Basin

Arnan X., Quevedo L., Rodrigo A. (2013) Forest fire occurrence increases the distribution of a scarce forest type in the Mediterranean Basin. Acta Oecologica. 46: 39-47.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.actao.2012.10.005

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Here we report how fire recurrence increases the distribution of a scarce forest type in NE Spain that is dominated by the resprouter tree species Arbutus unedo. We used a combination of GIS and field surveys to determine the effect of fire and pre-fire vegetation on the appearance of A. unedo forests. In the field, we also analyzed the factors that promote fire and lead to the appearance of A. unedo forests. Our results reveal an increased occurrence of A. unedo forests in NE Spain in recent years; this phenomenon was strongly related to fire recurrence and the vegetation type present prior to fire. Most Pinus halepensis forests that burned more than once gave rise to A. unedo forests. Our results indicate that these conversions were related to a reduction in pine density coupled with increases in the density and size of A. unedo trees due to recurrent fires. Given that fires are increasing in number and magnitude in the Mediterranean, we predict a major change in landscape structure and composition at the regional scale. © 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS.

Llegeix més

The dimensionality of ecological networks

Eklof A., Jacob U., Kopp J., Bosch J., Castro-Urgal R., Chacoff N.P., Dalsgaard B., de Sassi C., Galetti M., Guimaraes P.R., Lomascolo S.B., Martin Gonzalez A.M., Pizo M.A., Rader R., Rodrigo A., Tylianakis J.M., Vazquez D.P., Allesina S. (2013) The dimensionality of ecological networks. Ecology Letters. 16: 577-583.
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Doi: 10.1111/ele.12081

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How many dimensions (trait-axes) are required to predict whether two species interact? This unanswered question originated with the idea of ecological niches, and yet bears relevance today for understanding what determines network structure. Here, we analyse a set of 200 ecological networks, including food webs, antagonistic and mutualistic networks, and find that the number of dimensions needed to completely explain all interactions is small (

Llegeix més

Floral advertisement scent in a changing plant-pollinators market

Filella I., Primante C., Llusia J., Martin Gonzalez A.M., Seco R., Farre-Armengol G., Rodrigo A., Bosch J., Penuelas J. (2013) Floral advertisement scent in a changing plant-pollinators market. Scientific Reports. 3: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1038/srep03434

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Plant-pollinator systems may be considered as biological markets in which pollinators choose between different flowers that advertise their nectar/pollen rewards. Although expected to play a major role in structuring plant-pollinator interactions, community-wide patterns of flower scent signals remain largely unexplored. Here we show for the first time that scent advertisement is higher in plant species that bloom early in the flowering period when pollinators are scarce relative to flowers than in species blooming later in the season when there is a surplus of pollinators relative to flowers. We also show that less abundant flowering species that may compete with dominant species for pollinator visitation early in the flowering period emit much higher proportions of the generalist attractant β-ocimene. Overall, we provide a first community-wide description of the key role of seasonal dynamics of plant-specific flower scent emissions, and reveal the coexistence of contrasting plant signaling strategies in a plant-pollinator market.

Llegeix més

Short-term ecological and behavioural responses of Mediterranean ant species Aphaenogaster gibbosa (Latr. 1798) to wildfire

Lazaro-Gonzalez A., Arnan X., Boulay R., Cerda X., Rodrigo A. (2013) Short-term ecological and behavioural responses of Mediterranean ant species Aphaenogaster gibbosa (Latr. 1798) to wildfire. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 6: 627-638.
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Doi: 10.1111/icad.12018

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Fire greatly affects plant and animal biodiversity. There is an extensive body of literature on the effects of fire on insect communities, in which a large variability of responses has been observed. Very few studies, however, have addressed functional responses at the species level, information that would greatly enhance our understanding of the impact of fire at higher organisational levels. The aim of this study is to analyse the short-term ecological and behavioural responses of the Mediterranean ant Aphaenogaster gibbosa to fire-induced environmental changes. We compared aspects of the abiotic and biotic environment relevant to this species, as well as differences in colony foraging behaviour, on unburnt and burnt plots in a Mediterranean area that was affected by a wildfire. Our results showed that fire modified plant cover around nests and daily cycles of soil temperature close to the nest. Although there were no significant differences in food quantity, food quality (particularly seed composition) was different between unburnt and burnt plots. In accordance with these environmental changes, we found significant differences in the daily activity rhythms and diet composition of A. gibbosa between unburnt and burnt plots. Overall, these differences did not result in significant changes in overall foraging activity and efficiency, allowing ant colonies to maintain the same food intake regardless of the habitat they occupied. We conclude that A. gibbosa uses behavioural plasticity to modify its foraging strategy in recently burnt environments and thus survive post-fire conditions. © 2013 The Royal Entomological Society.

Llegeix més

Post-fire invasion and subsequent extinction of Conyza spp. in Mediterranean forests is mostly explained by local factors

Pino J., Arnan X., Rodrigo A., Retana J. (2013) Post-fire invasion and subsequent extinction of Conyza spp. in Mediterranean forests is mostly explained by local factors. Weed Research. 53: 470-478.
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Doi: 10.1111/wre.12040

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This work explored the invasion patterns of Conyza species in Mediterranean pine forests after fire and identified their main correlates through a temporal study approach. We hypothesised that wildfires might favour Conyza spp. invasion in these forests, but only transiently and depending on fire regime. We recorded Conyza spp. invasion and subsequent extinction in plots from species' occurrence and cover in vegetation surveys. We also explored the association of Conyza spp. presence and cover with a set of climatic, landscape and local (plot) factors using GLZ and GLM. We assessed changes in significant factors over time with a Wilcoxon test for paired samples. Evidence for Conyza spp. establishment was found in two-thirds of the study plots, with an invasion peak 2 years after fire. Local factors related to resource availability, including high fire severity, low soil stoniness and total vegetation cover and high herbaceous cover, were significantly correlated with Conyza occurrence in plots at the invasion peak. However, Conyza cover was always low (≤6%) and populations did not persist more than several years, thus becoming rarer as plant cover increased. Landscape and climatic factors showed no association with Conyza occurrence. In conclusion, wildfires favour transient invasion of European Mediterranean pine forests by Conyza spp. Invasion is mostly enhanced by local fire severity and constrained by subsequent vegetation recovery, while it is poorly explained by climate and landscape, either current or historical. © 2013 European Weed Research Society.

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