Soil-litter ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) community response to reforested lands of Gishwati tropical montane forest, northern-western part of Rwanda.
Recently, human activities have impacted biodiversity-rich forest in western Rwanda, creating a need to enhance restoration activities of degraded lands in the region. To evaluate the effects of reforestation activities on the community composition of soil-litter ants, research was conducted in Gishwati tropical montane forest, located in northern-western part of Rwanda. The ant fauna was studied in reforested lands dominated by regenerated native species and exotic tree species. Further, a primary forest made of native trees served as a reference. In each forest type, nine sampling points were used to sample ants. Ant specimens were collected using pitfalls, hand sampling and Winkler extractor. They were identified to subfamilies, genus and species levels using dichotomous keys, and also statistically analysed for species richness, diversity, evenness and community composition. We collected a total of 2,481 individuals from 5 subfamilies, 18 genera and 35 species. Higher abundance, diversity and species richness were found in soil-litter under natural primary and secondary forests dominated by regenerated native plant species compared to exotic tree forest. The ant community composition analysis indicated higher similarities in ant species sampled under primary native forest and secondary forest dominated by regenerated native species. Reforestation by regenerating native species may be given priority in restoration of degraded lands due to their importance in species richness and species diversity.