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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


ESPIGARES, TÍSCAR  and  LOPEZ-PINTOR, ANTONIO. Seed predation in a Mediterranean pasture: can ants modify the floristic composition of soil seed banks?. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2005, vol.78, n.4, pp.615-622. ISSN 0716-078X.

Ants may play an important role on vegetation dynamics, especially in arid and semiarid environments, where they can consume a high proportion of the produced seeds. Although some works have analysed the influence of seed predation by ants on the density of vegetation in Mediterranean pastures, there are no studies on the influence of ant activity upon the floristic composition of the vegetation and the soil seed banks in this kind of ecosystem. We have studied the effect of ant exclusion on the floristic composition of the vegetation and the soil seed bank in a Mediterranean pasture of central Spain. We sampled the floristic composition of the pasture during 2002 and 2003 springs and also we collected soil seed bank samples in autumn 2002. Floristic composition of soil seed banks was estimated by means of greenhouse germination. Cerastium semidecandrum seeds were almost four times more abundant in the plots subjected to ant exclusion than in those with ant activity. Due to the high spatial heterogeneity shown by soil seed banks, we have corrected the differences found between the autumn soil seed banks subjected to different ant treatments by using the floristic composition of the pasture community in the previous spring, as it was the primary source of the seeds collected in autumn. We found significant differences between the floristic composition of the soil seed banks subjected to ant exclusion and control treatments. However, no effects where found when the same procedure was used to detect ant effects on the spring adult community, highlighting the necessity of longer time spans for these pastures to manifest changes taking place at the soil seed bank stage

Keywords : annual pasture; ant exclusion; predation; soil seed bank; spatial heterogeneity.

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