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Ant communities (Hymenoptera: formicidae) of Flemish (north Belgium) wet heathlands, a declining habitat in Europe

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Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Entomology
Volume100
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)545-555
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Abstract

During a survey of 23 wet heathland sites in Flanders (north Belgium) in 1999 and 2000, using both manual nest searching and pitfall traps as sampling techniques, we found 28 ant species. One species (Myrmica lonae) was new to the Belgian fauna and several rare species were encountered. Three ecological groups could be distinguished based on soil preference: the first group of species was characteristic of sandy soil, the second contained species that were more numerous on peat soil (with Sphagnum spp.), and the third group of species had no soil preference. Ant nest numbers increased strongly between 1999 and 2000, especially on the plots that were inundated during the winter of 1999–2000, but the number of ant species did not differ significantly between years. Ant nest density showed an optimum at a Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea) cover of about 45%; the number of species did not show such an optimum. Pitfall traps yielded more species than manual nest searching; in particular temporary social parasites, species with a large foraging range and winged females from the surrounding habitats were missed by the latter technique. Finally, we give some recommendations for the conservation of, and suitable management measures for, ants on wet heathland.

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