Effects of Precipitation and Livestock Grazing on Foliage Foraging Ants in a Chihuahuan Desert Grassland

  • Steinberger Y
  • Whitford W
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We examined the relationship between seasonal livestock grazing (late summer and late winter) and the abundance of two ant species, Dorymyrmex insana and Forelius pruniosus, on three types of plants (mesquite shrubs, snakeweed sub-shrubs, and mixed grasses) dominated by black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda). Stocking rates were adjusted to remove 75% of the available forage. Since Chihuahuan Desert grasslands are not in transition to shrublands, the grasses and some herbaceous plants are the only available forage. We hypothesized that neither rainfall nor cattle grazing would affect the abundance of these ants on mesquite (Prosipis glandulosa) or snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae). Linear regressions of monsoon rainfall on mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) produced an r2 nearly equal to that with the annual precipitation. Monsoon rainfall on the evergreen sub-shrub, Gutierrezia sarothrae, resulted in June-July rainfall accounting for 47% - 83% of the variation in densities of D. insana on snakeweed. The number of D. insana was more than double the number of F. pruinosus on grasses, mesquite, and snakeweed. There were significant reductions in the abundance of F. pruinosus on the grass in the grazed plots; each year the plots were grazed. There were no significant effects of grazing on the abundance of either of the ant species sampled from G. sarothrae canopies. There were significantly fewer D. insana on mesquite in summer grazed plots than on P. glandulosa in winter grazed and ungrazed plots in the second and third years of grazing. Pre-grazing effects were compromised by the high annual (more than double) precipitation.




Steinberger, Y., & Whitford, W. G. (2021). Effects of Precipitation and Livestock Grazing on Foliage Foraging Ants in a Chihuahuan Desert Grassland. Open Journal of Ecology, 11(01), 52–63. https://doi.org/10.4236/oje.2021.111005

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