Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Disentangling the factors that shape bromeliad and ant communities in the canopies of cocoa agroforestry and preserved Atlantic forest.

Abstract

In tropical forest canopies, host tree characteristics shape epiphyte communities, and both host tree characteristics and epiphytes determine invertebrate communities, for example, ants. Tree height is among the factors most often mentioned as a strong predictor for both bromeliad and ant communities. However, many factors interact dynamically in shaping the tree-bromeliad-ant association. Here, we investigated the effects of the host tree and canopy structural characteristics on both bromeliads and ants. We sampled bromeliads on 180 trees and ants in 360 bromeliads living on a subset of 60 of those trees in a continuum of native forest fragments and agroforestry systems in the Atlantic Forest, a Brazilian biodiversity hotspot. We found that the host trees' crown area had a positive effect on the abundance of bromeliads. Also, the introduced tree species had higher abundance of bromeliads than native tree species. Moreover, we found that the ant species composition was different between native and introduced trees. In addition, we observed a positive effect of the size of bromeliads and tree crown height on ant species richness on both bromeliad and tree scales, but there was no effect of tree height. Taken together, our findings highlight the importance of trees with large crowns for the maintenance of bromeliads, which are also associated with richer ant communities in both Atlantic Forest and agroforestry systems. These results emphasize the importance of trees with larger crowns for biodiversity conservation in both native forest fragments and agroforestry systems. Abstract in Portuguese is available with online material.