Sandplain Pine-Oak-Heath forest is one of Vermont's most threatened natural communities due to fire suppression and land development. We studied the ant community in the largest remaining tract of sandplain forest in the state of Vermont, at the Camp Johnson Army National Guard Base, in Colchester. We investigated the long-term impacts of controlled burns conducted in 1995 and 1998 by examining ant specimens collected in burned and control (unburned) areas during September and early October of 2006, 2007, and 2008. The 1750 ant specimens from 911 pitfall traps yielded 29 ant species. Although sample effort was un-even, there was a greater than two-fold difference in species richness between the sites: 28 species in the burned site and 13 species in the control site. Ant abundance was significantly greater at the burned site compared to the control, and the Shannon index of species diversity differed as well. Canopy cover was significantly different in the burned site compared to the control site. Increased habitat diversity and increased forestfloor temperature following from the more open canopy in the burned area could potentially account for the greater abundance, species richness, and diversity of ants in the burned area. The striking differences in the ant communities of the burned versus the control areas 8–10 years post-burn demonstrate the potential usefulness of monitoring ants as indicators of the long-term ecological change induced by burning of the sandplain forest.
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Vol. 21 • No. 1