Physiological tolerance of species to temperature, moisture or chemical-physical properties of the soil could be important in determining the distribution and abundance of ant nests. In the present study we investigated the possible differences in the nesting site microhabitat characteristics of two syntopic species of harvester ants of the genus Messor living in a Mediterranean homogeneous grassland area belonging to a single phytosociological association known as "Vulpio ligusticae-Dasypyretum villosi". We tested to see whether the activity of the colonies of the two species directly altered the microhabitat characteristics of the nesting sites. Microhabitat characteristics were assessed quantifying several abiotic factors (light, temperature, soil moisture, soil pH, nitrogen) by means of the Ellenberg Bioindication Model. The model represents a simple way of interpreting the vegetation pattern in terms of ecological factors from the perspective of the plants and can be considered an effective and promising approach to link animal and plant ecology. Our data showed significant differences in the nesting site microhabitat characteristics partially due to a different capacity of the two species to alter nesting site proprieties. Possible differences in the physiological tolerance of these species to moisture gradients could be crucial in determining the distribution and abundance of their nests.
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