Resilience of native ant community against invasion of exotic ants after anthropogenic disturbances of forest habitats

Ecol Evol. 2022 Jul 11;12(7):e9073. doi: 10.1002/ece3.9073. eCollection 2022 Jul.


The positive association between disturbances and biological invasions is a widely observed ecological pattern in the Anthropocene. Such patterns have been hypothesized to be driven by the superior competitive ability of invaders or by modified environments, as well as by the interaction of these factors. An experimental study that tests these hypotheses is usually less feasible, especially in protected nature areas. An alternative approach is to focus on community resilience over time after the anthropogenic disturbance of habitats. Here, we focused on ant communities within a forest to examine their responses after disturbance over time. We selected the Yanbaru region of northern Okinawa Island, which is a biodiversity hotspot in East Asia. We compared ant communities among roadside environments in forests where the road age differed from 5 to 25 years. We also monitored the ant communities before and after disturbance from forest thinning. We found that the species richness and abundance of exotic ants were higher in recently disturbed environments (roadsides of 5-15 years old roads), where the physical environment was warmer and drier. In contrast, the roadsides of 25-year-old roads indicated the potential recovery of the physical environment with cooler and moister conditions, likely owing to regrowth of roadside vegetation. At these sites, there were few exotic ants, except for those immediately adjacent to the road. The population density of the invasive species Technoymex brunneus substantially increased 1-2 years after forest thinning. There was no evidence of the exclusion of native ants by exotic ants that were recorded after disturbance. Our results suggest that local ant communities in the Yanbaru forests have some resilience to disturbance. We suggest that restoration of environmental components is a better strategy for maintaining native ant communities, rather than removing exotic ants after anthropogenic disturbance.

Keywords: Technomyrmex brunneus; ant community; dispersal strategy; disturbance; invasive species; life‐history traits.