Plant Diversity ›› 2011, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (2): 191-199.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1143.2011.10186

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Plant Community Succession on Ant-hills of a Sub-alpine Meadow in Northwestern Sichuan, China: Species Composition and Diversity

 MENG  Feng-Qun-1, GAO  Xian-MIng-2, SUN  Shu-Cun-1   

  1. 1 School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China; 2 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and
    Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
  • Received:2010-10-27 Online:2011-04-25 Published:2010-12-13


Ants may increase habitat heterogeneity by means of building ant-hills, thereby changing community species composition and ecosystem structure and functioning. We investigated plant height, coverage and abundance for each species and calculated species richness and diversity for ant-hills of Camponotus herculeanus differing in size (309.45cm2, 948.45cm2, 2124.90cm2 for the small, intermediate and large ant-hills, respectively).  The dominant species was subsequently identified for the three size-classes of ant-hills and the mechanism underlying anthill community succession was derived. Our results showed that diurnal temperature fluctuation was greater in ant-hills than the surrounding flat soil, where the temperature of the ant-hills was higher in daytime but lower at night relative to the counterpart. The soil moisture was lower in center than in edge of ant-hills whose moisture was lower than the flat soil. Plant species diversity and richness were not significantly different among the three classes of ant-hills while the dominant species conspicuously changed. The importance value of the most dominant species, Kobresia uncinoides, increased significantly with increasing ant-hill size; the subdominant species was Galium aparine, Festuca ovina, Elymus nutans for the small, intermediate and large ant-hills, respectively. The dominance of grasses was significantly higher, but that of forbs was lower on ant-hills than in surrounding communities. The ant-hills were dominated by species from Cyperaceae and Gramineae while Compositae and Ranunculaceae dominated the surrounding communities. In addition, we discussed the possible mechanisms driving ant-hill community succession and the potential significance of ant-hills to the whole community composition and dynamics in the alpine meadow.

Key words: Ant-hill, Community succession, Species diversity, Species composition, Dominance,  , Plant functional groups, Alpine meadow

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