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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Monitoring Changes in Stressed Ecosystems Using Spatial Patterns of Ant Communities

Authors
item Nash, Maliha - USEPA
item Whitford, Walter
item Van Zee, Justin
item Havstad, Kris

Submitted to: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: We examined the feasibility of using changes in the distribution of ants as an indicator of environmental stress. Ants were captured using pit-fall traps arranged in a grid, and the abundance of ants in each trap was used to generate a diagram showing abundance at the various positions. The relative abundance of Conomyrma ants decreased, Solenopsis ants increased, and Pogonomyrmex ants did not change during environmental stress. Grazing by livestock produced long-term changes in ant foraging activity or distribution. These data may be useful to develop an indicator of ecosystem stress.

Technical Abstract: We examined the feasibility of using changes in spatial patterns of ants- distribution on experimental plots as an indicator of response to environmental stress. We produced contour maps based on relative abundances of the three most common genera of ants based on pit-fall trap captures. Relative abundance of Conomyrma spp. Decreased, relative abundance of Solenopsis spp. increased, and relative abundance of Pogonomyrmex spp. remained relatively unchanged. The contour maps showed long-term changes in foraging activity and/or distribution of colonies of ants in response to grazing by domestic livestock. This study demonstrated that analysis of spatial patterns of ant activity derived from relative abundances of ants in pit-fall traps provided interpretable data for developing an indicator of exposure to ecosystem stress.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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