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Human activities are increasing the size, frequency, and severity of disturbance across earth's ecosystems including deserts.

The Anthill

Ants are important drivers of ecosystem function and are good bioindicators of ecosystem sensitivity to disturbance and change. Rodents also play an important role in ecosystem response to disturbance and often compete with ants for resources. The purpose of our study was to test the main and interactive effects of fire, rodent activity, and time on ant forager abundance, species richness, and diversity, as well as changes in ant mound density and disk area in the Great Basin Desert.

We experimentally applied burn and rodent exclusion treatments and used pitfall traps to collect ants each month from April through October from to Rodent exclusion had minimal effects on the ant community, and there was not a significant rodent exclusion interaction with fire.

Treatment effects varied by month and year. Shifts in ant diversity following fire were driven by positive responses of harvester ants to burned habitat conditions.

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In contrast, all other ant species when analyzed together had lower forager abundance in burned plots, which drove lower ant diversity in burned plots. Ant forager abundance, richness, and diversity increased each year of the study in all plots; however, richness and diversity remained lower in burned areas than in unburned areas each year.

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While rodents affected the plant community, those effects do not seem to transfer over to the ant community. Pogonomyrmex occidentalis mound density was higher in burned areas, but disk area was smaller. Our results suggest that fire has adverse effects on ant community diversity. Clair Intermediate levels of disturbance are known to maximize biodiversity, but frequent or novel disturbance can favor a few species and decrease diversity Hobbs and Huenneke , and increase the establishment and spread of invasive species Christensen and Burrows Ants are good indicators of ecosystem sensitivity to disturbance due to short life cycles and their importance as ecosystem engineers Brown Some species of ants, including Pogonomyrmex occidentalis , make large mounds and clear all of the vegetation in a disk around the mound, which can impact vegetation structure at the landscape scale Sharp and Barr In a previous study at our site, rodent activity dramatically decreased Bromus tectorum , or cheatgrass, invasion St.

Where rodents were excluded, invasive grasses dominated the site, but where rodents had access, the plant community was dominated by annual forbs. The large mounds and disks of P. The object of this study was to determine the effects of fire and rodent exclusion and corresponding shifts in plant community composition on ant community forager abundance, species richness, and diversity. Our study addressed the following questions: 1 What are the main and interactive effects of fire and rodent exclusion on ant forager abundance, species richness, and diversity? The study site is dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis , and at the time of the burn treatments, only one other native plant was present, squirreltail Elymus elymoides , a common perennial bunch grass.

At the start of the ant survey work in , several other species of plants were present including Bromus tectorum , halogeton Halogeton glomeratus , and several other species of annual forbs; H. The most common rodent species at the site were Peromyscus maniculatus , Dipodomys microps , and Perognathus parvus. In the study location, there was little evidence of grazing and no evidence of invasive plant species or fire in the last several decades prior to the start of the experiment in Each plot was randomly assigned a combination of two treatments, burned or unburned, and rodent access or rodent exclusion, in a full factorial design St.

The burn treatments were conducted 20 September In each of the five experimental blocks, one rodent exclusion and one rodent access plot were randomly selected and independently burned, completing the full factorial design. For each pin, the topmost plant touching the pin was recorded as canopy, and any other plant touching beneath the canopy was recorded as a foliar layer.

Basal cover was also recorded for each pin.

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Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis , E. Vegetation surveys were conducted in June of and Ants were collected using 7. Ants were trapped monthly from April through October for three consecutive years: — Due to an accident in our laboratory, the data from lost the monthly distinctions, but treatment designations remained intact. Collected specimens were also matched against specimens housed in the entomology collection of the Monte L.

Bean Life Science Museum Brigham Young University , where vouchers for each species from this experiment have been placed. Species identifications were verified by John Longino at the University of Utah. After image analysis of mounds was complete, ground validation of the final analysis was performed to ensure proper identification of the location of each ant mound. Total forager abundance, P. Statistical analyses were performed using the statistical programs JMP Pro version Analyses were conducted using combined June ant data from both and , because our vegetation surveys were conducted in June each year and June represents the peak of both ant forager abundance and Shannon's diversity.

We only trapped one Stenamma diecki individual and only two Stenamma smithi individuals. All species, excluding the two Stenamma spp.

The Stenamma spp. Fire had variable effects on ant forager abundance and Shannon's diversity in our study.

Conclusion

However, in and , the burn effect on ant forager abundance was not statistically significant Fig. Four of the twelve ant species were more abundant in burned plots than in unburned plots: P. Pogonomyrmex occidentalis foraging abundance was higher in burned plots than in unburned plots in both and , but not in Fig. Rodent exclusion had no significant impacts on ant forager abundance, richness, or Shannon's diversity in our study.

Rodents had little to no effect on the abundance of P. There was not a significant fire by rodent exclusion interaction on the forager abundance of P.

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Month and year both had strong effects on the total ant forager abundance and Shannon's diversity. Average area of individual P. There was no significant difference in total P.

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Average P. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around any outdoor entrances. The strong acidity and smell can help keep the pests away. To keep your food safe, slip a bay leaf inside your storage containers. This trick works inside cabinets, too, where sachets of sage, bay, cinnamon sticks, or whole cloves will smell pleasant while discouraging ants from getting cozy.

Next, find out the 8 ways to make sure you never see a bug in your kitchen ever again. From the book, Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things. Skip links Skip to content Skip to primary sidebar Skip to footer. Share on Facebook. Save on Pinterest. Tweet this.

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