Effect of vegetation restoration on ant nest-building activities following mobile dune stabilization in the Horqin Sandy land, Northern China
Measurements of the density and characteristics (size and height) of ant mounds were carried out on mobile, semi-mobile, semi-fixed and fixed dunes in the Horqin Sandy Land, Northern China. The relationships between the distribution of ant mounds and the plant community (abundance and cover) were investigated, for areas within and across the dune stages. Changes in spatial pattern of ant mounds were also analysed following mobile dune stabilization. The results showed no ant mounds on mobile dunes; the mound density was significantly higher on fixed dunes than on semi-fixed or semi-mobile dunes. The mound density depended on plant density and cover across all dune stages, but not within any dune stage. The mound diameter increased but the mound height decreased from semi-mobile dunes to fixed dunes. However, the mound diameter and height were not related to plant cover and density within any stabilization stage or across all dune stages. The spatial pattern of ant mounds tended to change from more clumped (semi-mobile and semi-fixed dunes) to less clumped and approached a random pattern (fixed dunes) along the dune stabilization gradient, which was related to the changing vegetation pattern during succession. Although the quantification of the number of ant species present was not attempted on each dune, the observed differences in ant colour and size suggest at least eight species were present. Fixed dunes were more attractive for different kinds of ant species, but the mound distribution exhibited a more random pattern with more continuous vegetation. Thus, different environmental conditions, especially in terms of the plant communities present at different dune stages, affected the activities and behaviour of the ants (including the distribution of mounds), but did not affect mound size and height. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.