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, 5 (7), e11614

A New (Old), Invasive Ant in the Hardwood Forests of Eastern North America and Its Potentially Widespread Impacts

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A New (Old), Invasive Ant in the Hardwood Forests of Eastern North America and Its Potentially Widespread Impacts

Benoit Guénard et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Biological invasions represent a serious threat for the conservation of biodiversity in many ecosystems. While many social insect species and in particular ant species have been introduced outside their native ranges, few species have been successful at invading temperate forests. In this study, we document for the first time the relationship between the abundance of the introduced ant, Pachycondyla chinensis, in mature forests of North Carolina and the composition, abundance and diversity of native ant species using both a matched pair approach and generalized linear models. Where present, P. chinensis was more abundant than all native species combined. The diversity and abundance of native ants in general and many individual species were negatively associated with the presence and abundance of P. chinensis. These patterns held regardless of our statistical approach and across spatial scales. Interestingly, while the majority of ant species was strongly and negatively correlated with the abundance and presence of P. chinensis, a small subset of ant species larger than P. chinensis was either as abundant or even more abundant in invaded than in uninvaded sites. The large geographic range of this ant species combined with its apparent impact on native species make it likely to have cascading consequences on eastern forests in years to come, effects mediated by the specifics of its life history which is very different from those of other invasive ants. The apparent ecological impacts of P. chinensis are in addition to public health concerns associated with this species due to its sometimes, deadly sting.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Responses of the species density and abundance of native ants to P. chinensis abundance.
(A) Relationship between the abundance of P.chinensis and the species density of native ants per pitfall trap. (B) Relationship between the abundance of P.chinensis and the abundance of native ants per pitfall trap. Numbers in parenthesis represent the number of pitfall traps for each category.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Relationship between P. chinensis abundance and the native species density.
(A) Aphaenogaster (B) Camponotus (C) Crematogaster (D) Formica (E) small Myrmicinae, and (F) small Formicinae.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Ant species density as a function of the number of individuals collected with Winkler techniques.
Grey circles represent sites presented in Ward (2000) and our own sampling using Ward's method (site details in supplement). Red circles represent sites sampled within North Carolina where P. chinensis was absent. Black circles represent sites collected in North Carolina where P. chinensis was present.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Species density of native ants per site as a function of the abundance of native ants and the presence of P. chinensis.
Sites with P. chinensis are represented by grey circles and sites without P. chinensis are in black. Width of circles is relative to the abundance of P. chinensis found per site (after data transformed with a log +2). (A) Matched pair design (15 paired sites of 13 pitfall traps used for each site). (B) Actual presence of P. chinensis design (9 paired sites with 12 pitfall traps used for each site).

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