Rapid assessment of ant assemblages in public pine forests of the central Iberian Peninsula

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Ants are good indicators of ecosystem health and therefore a good choice for rapid terrestrial bioassessments (RBAs) in land management. However, the application of these rapid protocols is unfeasible until efficient sampling methodologies adapted to management goals have been developed. Taking into account the need to improve tools to synthesize broad-scale RBA, the aim of this study is to search for a simple and efficient ant sampling protocol suitable to assess changes in ant assemblages taking, as an example, the specific case of the management of selective logging activities in public pine forests of the central Iberian Peninsula. Ants were sampled at eighteen sites. Each one corresponded to a . tranzón, a quadrangular unit of management. In our case all the . tranzones had similar areas (25-30. ha). Ants were sampled at each site using two methods: pitfall traps and hand collecting. Ant species richness (number of species) and the Shannon diversity index (H) were compared both for sampling method and for sample point. The Shannon diversity index was not considered as a biodiversity index, but a measure of entropy (uncertainty or information content) like in its original proposed sense. In both comparisons, hand collecting was the method that achieved a greater ant species collection and greater diversity indexes, and therefore, a higher information content, suggesting that it is the best choice to use for ant RBA protocols in the particular case of temperate forest habitats. This is an important issue for land managers of these forests in order to detect changes in ant assemblages between logging events. Moreover, the relatively large ant sizes reported in the Mohago pine forests in comparison with ant species across the whole Iberian Peninsula make the process of ant collection and recognition easier, simplifying forest management through the elaboration of simple protocols for rapid ant bioassessments (RBAs). Overall, this information greatly improves the current application of rapid ant assessment protocols for monitoring the recovery status of these temperate forests ​
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