Submitted to: Journal of Insect Conservation
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/16/2014
Publication Date: 8/8/2014
Citation: Nemec, K.T. 2014. Tallgrass prairie ants: their species composition, ecological roles, and response to management. Journal of Insect Conservation. 18:509-521. DOI:10.1007/s10841-014-9656-2.
Interpretive Summary: Ants play an important role in agricultural and grassland ecosystems, improving soil aeration, making soil nutrients more readily available to plants and animals, and serving as food for other animals. In the last several decades, farmers and agencies have seeded thousands of acres of cropland with tallgrass prairie seed mixes. In this paper I review what is known about the types of ant species found within tallgrass prairie, their ecological roles, and their response to management.
Technical Abstract: Ants are highly influential organisms in terrestrial ecosystems, including the tallgrass prairie, one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Through their tunneling, ants affect soil properties and resource availability for animals and plants. Ants also have important ecological roles as predators of other invertebrates, prey for vertebrates and invertebrates, and consumers of plant tissue and seeds. In the last several decades, various organizations, agencies, and agricultural producers have attempted to create wildlife habitat or reduce soil erosion by seeding thousands of hectares of bare cropland in the central United States with tallgrass prairie seed mixes. Although initially, monitoring of these restorations and of unplowed prairie remnants focused on plants and birds, in recent years the response of invertebrates such as ants has increasingly been the subject of research. An understanding of tallgrass pairie ant communities can help land managers and scientists better monitor the ecological condition of tallgrass prairie and guide management and restoration efforts. Here I review our current knowledge of ant species found within tallgrass prairie, their ecological roles, and their response to management.