Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dominant ant species significantly influence ecosystems

Studies in tropical rainforests indicate that often single ant species cause the majority of resource consumption / Large differences between day and night

Date: February 1, 2016
Source: Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz

Ants and humans represent approximately the same amount of biomass on our planet. Together with other social insects, ants make up a third of the entire animal biomass in the tropics and hence have a major effect on their ecosystems. Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) investigated the role of different ant species in various ecosystem processes in tropical rain forests. They discovered that the dominant role is often played by only a few or even a single ant species when it comes to consuming food resources, something that can make an ecosystem vulnerable. Researchers working with Dr. Florian Menzel of the JGU Institute of Zoology have identified ant species in the forests of Borneo that are extremely efficient and exploit the major proportion of the food resources available. This is the first time that biologists quantified resource consumption by ants in the field and differentiated between diurnal and nocturnal ant communities.

The stability of an ecosystem depends on various factors, such as whether and how fast a system can return to its original state after disturbance. The capacity of an ecosystem to cope with the loss of species also contributes to its stability. How ecosystem stability is affected by anthropogenic loss of biodiversity has been extensively studied in the past years. Generally, a high biodiversity leads to a high stability of the ecosystem. However, how tight this relation is and which other factors influence it often remains unknown.


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