Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 657–665 | Cite as

The preservation value of a tiny sacred forest of the oak Quercus calliprinos and the impact of livestock presence

  • Jean Jacques Itzhak Martinez
  • Ziv Amar


Small holy woods protected for centuries for cultural purposes may have conservation value for small animals, despite their tiny sizes. To verify this hypothesis we used transects to quantified ants in a small sacred forest in a hot Mediterranean region, and the impact of cattle presence in part of it. We hypothesized that it should be mainly inhabited by species having a northern temperate distribution. We detected ants belonging to 39 species including 15 new species for the region. As expected, the majority of them had Palearctic distribution, while others were endemic to the Levant. All of them were known to live in regions with temperate climate. The presence of cattle did not statistically impact on either the number of species or on their biodiversity indices: the average number of ant species per transect was 21 ± 4.6 (SD) in the presence of cows and 23 ± 4.8 in their absence. As hypothesized, the main impact of cattle was on community composition: in the presence of cattle more species were specialists for, or tolerant to, disturbed habitats, resulting in a relatively low Jaccard coefficient of similarity between the two parts of the forest (Sj = 0.56). In conclusion, this small sacred forest, protected for centuries, facilitates the conservation of a great number of shade-loving ant species in a hot region by providing suitable habitats, but the presence of livestock reduces the conservation value of the forest by promoting ant species tolerant to disturbed habitats.


Ants Biodiversity conservation Chao2 estimator Formicidae Holy wood Nature reserve 



We thank the Israel Taxonomy Initiative for having financed this research. We acknowledge Ionescu-Hirsch from the National Collections of Natural History at Tel Aviv University for species identification and voucher preservation; our technician Maayan Rauch who helped us in the field work and laboratory and Carly Golodets for proofreading the manuscript. We are also grateful to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority for having permitted the research in the Bar’am forest reserve (permit nb: 2011/38058).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesTel Hai Academic CollegeUpper GalileeIsrael
  2. 2.Animal Ecology LabMigal, Galilee Research Institute LtdKiryat ShmonaIsrael

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