Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 1075–1089 | Cite as

Congruent spatial patterns of ant and tree diversity in Neotropical savannas

  • Heraldo L. VasconcelosEmail author
  • Jonas B. Maravalhas
  • Karen C. Neves
  • Renata Pacheco
  • Jésica Vieira
  • Flávio C. Camarota
  • Thiago J. Izzo
  • Glein M. Araújo
Original Paper


The strength of plant–animal diversity relationships tends to be idiosyncratic and, in many cases, its mechanisms are poorly understood. Consequently, the relevance of plant diversity patterns as surrogates of animal diversity patterns is still debated. We evaluated if ants and trees show congruent patterns of species richness and turnover at a regional scale, and the extent to which cross-taxon congruence can be attributed to direct interactions between the two taxa. We surveyed the ant and tree communities in 31 sites scattered over the world’s largest tropical savanna (the Cerrado), and found that tree and ant species richness are positively correlated. Furthermore, the greater the dissimilarity in tree community composition (turnover) between any two sites the greater the dissimilarity in ant community composition between these same sites. However, most of the explained variation in ant species richness and turnover was due to the joint influences of the environmental and spatial factors on tree species richness and turnover. Ants and trees shared similar environmental correlates of species richness and turnover, including especially net primary productivity, which in our study region is positively correlated with latitude. Congruent patterns of ant and tree diversity thus appear to have aroused because these two taxa are influenced similarly by environmental and spatial gradients. Nevertheless, we caution against the use of trees as surrogate of ant diversity patterns in Neotropical savannas, given that the observed spatial covariation in species richness and turnover was not strong to the point that tree diversity can reliably predict ant diversity patterns.


Beta diversity Biodiversity surrogates Cerrado Species richness patterns Spatial covariation 



We are grateful to the Brazilian Council of Research and Scientific Development (CNPq Grant 457407/2012-3) for funding this research, and the following agencies for granting permission to collect in protected areas of the Cerrado: Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio licença de coleta 27627-7 and 46596-1), Instituto Estadual de Florestas de Minas Gerais (licença 039/11), Fundação Acangau, Secretaria de Estado de Meio Ambiente do Mato Grosso (SEMA/MT), and Instituto Natureza do Tocantins (Naturantis). We are also thankful to the following people for providing logistical support at some of our field sites: Helena C. Morais (FAL, Brasília), Sergio Dani (Reserva Acangau, Paracatú), Frederico Neves (APA do Rio Pandeiros), Cristina Pernanbuco (Estação Biológica Vereda Grande, Pres. Olegário), Fernando Pedroni (Barra do Garças), Giselda Durigan (Estação Ecológica Águas de Santa Bárbara), Aline Oliveira (Parque Estadual do Cerrado, Jaguariaíva), Marcos Bragança (Palmas and Jalapão) and Adolfo Melo (Araguaina). Finally, we wish to thank Rodrigo Feitosa, Fernando Fernández, Ted Schultz, Jeffrey Sosa-Cavo, Scott Powell, Ana Ješovnik and Gabriela Camacho for their help with ant identifications, and Tiago Frizzo, Karine Carvalho, and Elmo Borges for their help with the field and/or laboratory work. Alan Andersen, Mario R. Moura, and two anonymous reviewers made helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10531_2019_1708_MOESM1_ESM.docx (70 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 69 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Federal de UberlândiaUberlândiaBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesThe George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Departamento de Botânica e EcologiaUniversidade Federal de Mato GrossoCuiabáBrazil

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