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

Yosef Steinberger, Walt G Whitford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-63
Number of pages12
JournalOpen Journal of Ecology
Issue number01
StatePublished - 13 Jan 2021


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