Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Article
Published: 2020-01-21
Page range: 6-15
Abstract views: 308
PDF downloaded: 2

Ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) diversity in savanna ecosystem: a comparison of sampling methods and seasons

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Eswatini
Sampling biodiversity assessment species list insects Formicidae ants savanna


One of the most important means of obtaining biodiversity information in natural ecosystems is surveying and collection of biological specimen using appropriate sampling methods. This study was carried out to determine the most appropriate sampling method for ants in a savanna ecosystem during two distinct seasons. Pitfall trapping, direct search and litter extrac­tion produced significantly different species lists, with each method having unique species and seasons also showed the same trend. A total of 53 species were collected from both conservation areas during the study, with Pheidole sp.4, Crematogaster amita and Monomorium albopilosum being the three most dominant species. Generalised Myrmicinae and opportunists were the functional groups with the highest species richness in all methods and seasons, with pitfall trapping having the highest richness. While pitfall trapping and direct search were deemed to be the most efficient methods in this savanna, results also suggest that varied sampling methods are necessary to ensure sampling of all microhabitats within a specific locality. Ad­ditionally, utilisation and testing of sampling methods is essential for each geographic region.

Key words: Sampling, biodiversity assessment, species list, insects, Formicidae, ants, savanna


  1. Aldhafer H. M., Abdel-Dayem M. S., Aldryhim Y. N., Fadl H. H., El-Torkey A. M., Elgharbawy A. A. & Setyaningrum H. 2016. Diversity and composition of ground-dwelling beetle assemblages (Insecta: Coleoptera) in Rawdhat Khorim National Park, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Journal of Arid Environments 127: 187–191.

    Anderson A. N. 1995. A classification of Australian ant communities, based on functional groups which parallel plant life-forms in relation to stress and disturbance. Journal of Biogeography 22(1): 15–29.

    Anderson A. N. 1997. Functional groups and patterns of organisation in north American communities: a comparison with Australia. Journal of Biogeography 24:433–460.

    Andersen A. N., Hoffmann B. D., Müller W. J. & Griffiths A. D. 2002. Using ants as bioindicators in land management: simplifying assessment of ant community responses. Journal of Applied Ecology 39: 8–17.

    Andersen A. N., Fisher A., Hoffmann B. D., Read J. L. & Richards R. 2004. Use of terrestrial invertebrates for biodiversity monitoring in Australian rangelands, with particular reference to ants. Austral Ecology 29: 87–92.

    Anderson A. N., Del Toro I. & Parr C. L. 2015. Savanna ant species richness is maintained along a bioclimatic gradient of increasing latitude and decreasing rainfall in northern Australia. Journal of Biogeography 42: 2313–2322.

    Boulton A. M., Davies K. F. & Ward P. S. 2005. Species richness, abundance, and composition of ground-dwelling ants in northern California grasslands: role of plants, soil, and grazing. Environmental Entomology 34(1): 96–104.

    Boycott R., Forrester B., Loffler L. & Monadjem A. 2007. Wild Swaziland: Common plants and animals. CTP Printers, Cape Town. 178 pp.

    Campbell H., Fellowes M. D. E. & Cook J. M. 2015. Species diversity and dominance-richness relationships for ground and arboreal ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) assemblages in Namibian desert, saltpan, and savannah. Myrmecological News 21: 37–47.

    Delabie J. H. C., Fisher B. L., Majer J. D. & Wright I. W. 2000. Sampling effort and choice of Methods. In Agosti, D., Majer, J.D., Alonso L.E. & Schultz, T.R. (Eds.): Ants: standard methods for measuring and monitoring biodiversity. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 145–154.

    Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC) 2019. accessed 20 August 2019

    Gotelli Nicholas J., Ellison Aaron M., Dunn R. R. & Sanders Nathan J. 2011. Counting ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Biodiversity sampling and statistical analysis for myrmecologists. Myrmecological News 15: 13–19.

    Hollard J. D., Bert D. G. & Fahrig L. 2004. Determining the spatial scale of species’ response to habitat. BioScience 54(3): 227–253.[0227:DTSSOS]2.0.CO;2

    Jones D.T. & Eggleton P. 2000. Sampling termite assemblages in tropical forests: testing a rapid biodiversity assessment protocol. Journal of Applied Ecology 37: 191–203.

    King J. R., Andersen A. A. & Cutter A. D. 1998. Ants as bioindicators of habitat disturbance: validation of the functional group model for Australia’s humid tropics. Biodiversity and Conservation 7: 1627–1638.

    LaScaleia M. C., Reynolds C., Magagula C. N., Roets F. & McCleery R. A. 2018. Dung beetle richness decreases with increasing landscape structural heterogeneity in an African savanna-agricultural mosaic. Insect Conservation and Diversity 11(4): 396–406.

    Lovell S. J., Hamer M. L., Slotow R. H. & Herbert D. 2010. Assessment of sampling approaches for a multi-taxa invertebrate survey in a South African savanna-mosaic ecosystem. Austral Ecology 35: 357–370.

    Majer J. D. 1997. The use of pitfall traps for sampling ants – a critique. Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria 56(2): 323–329.

    McGeoch M. A., Sithole H., Samways M., Simaika J., Pryke J., Picker M., Uys C., Armstrong A., Dippenaar-Schoeman A., Engelbrecht I. Braschler B. & Hamer M. 2011. Conservation and monitoring of invertebrates in terrestrial protected areas. Koedoe 53(2).

    Oliver I. & Beattie A. J. 1996. Designing a cost-effective invertebrate survey: A test of methods for rapid assessment of biodiversity. Ecological Applications 6(2): 594–607.

    Parr C. L. & Chown S. L. 2001. Inventory and bioindicator sampling: Testing pitfall and Winkler methods with ants in a South African savanna. Journal of Insect Conservation 5: 27–36.

    Petit S. & Usher M.B. 1998. Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes: the ground beetle communities of woody uncultivated habitats. Biodiversity and Conservation 7: 1549–1561.

    Radnan G. N. & Eldridge D. J. 2018. Ants respond more strongly to grazing than changes in shrub cover. Land Degradation & Development 29: 907–915.

    Romero H. & Jaffe K. 1989. A comparison of methods for sampling ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in savannas. Biotropica 21(4): 348–352.

    Semida F. M., Abdel-Dayem M. S., Zalat S. M. & Gilbert F. S. 2001. Habitat heterogeneity and altitudinal gradients in relation to beetle diversity in south Sinai, Egypt. Egyptian Journal of Biology 3(2): 137–146.

    Stork N. E. & Samways M. J. 1995. Inventorying and monitoring. In Heywood, V.H. (Ed.), Global Biodiversity Assessment UNEP. Cambridge UK. pp 453–544.

    Underwood E. C. & Fisher B. L. 2006. The role of ants in conservation monitoring: If, when, and how. Biological Conservation 132(2): 166–182.

    Van Hamburg H., Andersen A. N. & Robertson H. G. 2004. Ant Community Development on Rehabilitated Ash Dams in the South African Highveld. Restoration Ecology12(4): 552–558.

    Vasconcelos H. L., Leite M. F. Vilhena J. M. S., Lima A. P. & Magnusson W. E. 2008. Ant diversity in an Amazonian savanna: Relationship with vegetation structure, disturbance by fire and dominant ants. Austral Ecology 33: 221–231.

    Yaacobi G., Ziv Y. & Rosenzweig M. L. 2007. Effects of interactive scale-dependent variables on beetle diversity patterns in a semi-arid agricultural landscape. Landscape Ecology 22(5): 687–703.

    Zhu Y. & Wong D. 2018. Response of ants to human-altered habitats with reference to seed dispersal of the myrmecochore Corydalis giraldii Fedde (Papaveraceae). Nordic Journal of Botany 36(7): 1–7.