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Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

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Almost half of lowland tropical forests are at various stages of regeneration following deforestation or fragmentation. Changes in tree communities along successional gradients have predictable bottom‐up effects on consumers. Liana (woody vine) assemblages also change with succession, but their effects on animal succession remain unexplored. Here we used a large‐scale liana removal experiment across a forest successional chronosequence (7–31 years) to determine the importance of lianas to ant community structure. We conducted 1,088 surveys of ants foraging on and living in trees using tree trunk baiting and hand‐collecting techniques at 34 paired forest plots, half of which had all lianas removed. Ant species composition, β‐diversity, and species richness were not affected by liana removal; however, ant species co‐occurrence (the coexistence of two or more species in a single tree) was more frequent in control plots, where lianas were present, versus removal plots. Forest stand age had a larger effect on ant community structure than the presence of lianas. Mean ant species richness in a forest plot increased by ca. 10% with increasing forest age across the 31‐year chronosequence. Ant surveys from forest >20 years old included more canopy specialists and fewer ground‐nesting ant species versus those from forestsConsequently, lianas had a minimal effect on arboreal ant communities in this early successional forest, where rapidly changing tree community structure was more important to ant species richness and composition.


Accepted version. Biotropica, Vol. 51, No. 6 (October 11, 2019): 885-893. DOI. © 2019 Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

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