Ecological restoration following the local eradication of an invasive ant in northern Australia
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- Hoffmann, B.D. Biol Invasions (2010) 12: 959. doi:10.1007/s10530-009-9516-2
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There have been many management programs for invasive ants, yet few have achieved eradication. Of those that were successful, none have documented the subsequent recovery of the affected ecological system. Here I document the ecological impact and eradication of a 5 ha infestation of the African big headed ant Pheidole megacephala from an intact habitat in northern Australia, as well as the subsequent recovery of the native ant fauna. Pre-treatment, the impact of P. megacephala on the native ant fauna was clear. Native ant abundance and species richness were almost always significantly lower in infested compared to uninfested samples. Multivariate analysis statistically separated sample grids from infested and uninfested areas. Following treatment, no P. megacephala individuals were detected for 2 years and it was therefore declared eradicated. Ecological recovery post treatment was also clear. Twenty-one months post-treatment, native ant abundance and species richness within the treated (infested) area were always almost always significantly greater than in the pre-treatment sample, corresponding with no change in the control area (uninfested area). Total species richness from plots in the treated area was identical to that from plots in the control area. Multivariate analysis showed no statistical separation of the treated or control plots. Species richness within lure plots displayed no trend within the treated area relative to the treatment boundary or locations away from the treated area. This project demonstrates the feasibility of eradicating this ant, and that ecological systems are capable of recovering following removal of an exotic invader.