Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ants have big impact on environment as 'ecosystem engineers'

Date:
February 4, 2011
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
Research on the impact of ants on their local environment has revealed they play an important role. They have a dual effect on their local ecosystem which affects both the density and diversity of other species around them, including animals much higher up the food chain.

This is a close-up of a common red ant (Myrmica rubra).
Credit: Dirk Sanders

Research by the University of Exeter has revealed that ants have a big impact on their local environment as a result of their activity as 'ecosystem engineers' and predators.

The study, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, found that ants have two distinct effects on their local environment.

Firstly, through moving of soil by nest building activity and by collecting food they affect the level of nutrients in the soil. This can indirectly impact the local populations of many animal groups, from decomposers such as Collembola, to species much higher up the food chain.

Secondly, they prey on a wide range of other animals, including larger prey which can be attacked by vast numbers of ant workers.

Dirk Sanders, an author of the study from the university's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, said: "Ants are very effective predators which thrive in huge numbers. They're also very territorial and very aggressive, defending their resources and territory against other predators. All of this means they have a strong influence on their surrounding area.

"In this research, we studied for the first time how big this impact is and the subtleties of it. What we found is that despite being predators, their presence can also lead to an increase in density and diversity of other animal groups. They genuinely play a key role in the local environment, having a big influence on the grassland food web."

The study, carried out in Germany, studied the impact of the presence of different combinations and densities of black garden ants (Lasius niger) and common red ants (Myrmica rubra), both species which can be found across Europe, including in the UK.

It found that a low density of ants in an area increased the diversity and density of other animals in the local area, particularly the density of herbivores and decomposers. At higher densities ants had no or the opposite effect, showing that predation is counteracting the positive influence.

Dr Frank van Veen, another author on the study, said: "What we find is that the impact of ants on soil nutrient levels has a positive effect on animal groups at low levels, but as the number of ants increases, their predatory impacts have the bigger effect -- thereby counteracting the positive influence via ecosystem engineering."

This research was financially supported by the German Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dirk Sanders, F. J. Frank van Veen. Ecosystem engineering and predation: the multi-trophic impact of two ant species. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01796.x

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Ants have big impact on environment as 'ecosystem engineers'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133227.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2011, February 4). Ants have big impact on environment as 'ecosystem engineers'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133227.htm
University of Exeter. "Ants have big impact on environment as 'ecosystem engineers'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131133227.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins