Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #150425

Title: THE FUNCTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CEMENTED NEST CAPS OF THE HARVESTER ANT, POGONOMYRMEX MARICOPA

Author
item WHITFORD, WALTER

Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/7/2002
Publication Date: 2/1/2003
Citation: WHITFORD,W.G. THE FUNCTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CEMENTED NEST CAPS OF THE HARVESTER ANT, POGONOMYRMEX MARICOPA. JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS. 2003. V. 53(2). P. 281-284.

Interpretive Summary: This study is one of several ongoing studies designed to examine the effect of invertebrates on Chihuahuan Desert soils. The seed harvesting ant, Pogonomyrmex maricopa, inhabits areas of stabilized sand dunes. These ants transport large quantities of caliche, (calcium carbonate nodules) to the surface where these small nodules form a protective layer around the nest entrances. Calcium carbonate nodules become cemented into a rigid film after rainfall. The cemented surface resists wind erosion and the energy of saltating sand grains. This behavior contributes to the pH of the soil and the buffering capacity of the soil.

Technical Abstract: Harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex maricopa, construct cemented caps on the sand mound nests in a fine sand dune area. The caps are approximately 60% calcium carbonate that is transported from the underlying calcium carbonate layers. The caps protect the nest structure from being eroded away during high-wind periods. Partial erosion of the cemented caps adds calcium carbonate to the sand dune soils.