Saturday, 27 December 2014

European fire ants spell trouble for North American forests

December 24, 2014

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

Invasive species are often bad news for the local environment, but new research suggests that the European fire ant could be double trouble for forest ecosystems in eastern North America.

In a new paper, evolutionary biologists from the University of Toronto report that the European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) can not only invade people’s backyards and deliver a nasty sting in the wrong circumstances, but it is also helping spread the seeds of an invasive plant seeds.

“Ecologists think invasive species might help each other to spread, but there are few good examples. They talk about ‘invasional meltdown,’ because ecosystems could be very, very rapidly taken over by invasive species if invaders help each other out,” explained Megan Frederickson, one of the authors of a study that will be published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “Our results suggest that invasional meltdown could be happening right under our noses, here in Ontario.”

Frederickson, Kirsten M. Prior, Jennifer M. Robinson and Shannon A. Meadley Dunphy, all from the university’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, created artificial ecological communities inside 42 small plastic swimming pools. These communities, also known as mesocosms, were created a field station, the Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers Hill.

Each of the pools was filled with soil, and the researchers planted four species of spring wildflowers – three native species (sharp-lobed hepatica, Canadian wild ginger and bloodroot) and one invasive species (greater celandine). Next, they collected colonies of either the European fire ant or a native woodland ant, adding them to the pool. Each ant picked up and relocated seeds of their respective plant species as the study authors monitored their activity.

No comments:

Post a comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails