Richness and structure of ant assemblies (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Atlantic forest in southern Brazil

ABSTRACT Ant diversity is influenced by the structural complexity of the environment. Ants are thus an ecologically important group due to their potential to serve as indicators of environmental quality. The objective of this study was to evaluate ant diversity in areas with different land use histories and thus, within different stages of regeneration in the Permanent Preservation Area of the Foz do Chapecó Hydroelectric Plant reservoir. Ant assemblies among sample sites were compared using rarefaction analysis, and estimated richness, frequency of occurrence, and relative abundance were calculated. Associations between species and sample sites were evaluated using Principal Component Analysis (PCA). We identified 55 species in total from 24 genera, distributed among seven subfamilies. Eight species had positive associations with sample sites. Estimates indicated that ant richness may be up to 21.4% greater than that observed. This study presents an inventory of species capable of colonizing environments undergoing natural regeneration processes, and aids our understanding of ecological recovery dynamics in protected areas near hydroelectric plant reservoirs southern Brazil.