, Volume 15, Issue 11, pp 2429-2442

Imported crazy ant displaces imported fire ant, reduces and homogenizes grassland ant and arthropod assemblages

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Abstract

A recently introduced, ecologically dominant, exotic ant species, Nylanderia fulva, is invading the Southeastern United States and Texas. We evaluate how this invader impacts diversity and abundance of co-occurring ants and other arthropods in two grasslands. N. fulva rapidly attains densities up to 2 orders of magnitude greater than the combined abundance of all other ants. Overall ant biomass increases in invaded habitat, indicating that N. fulva exploits resources not fully utilized by the local ant assemblage. At high density, as N. fulva spreads, it eliminates the current ecologically dominant invasive ant, red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Compared to imported fire ant dominated habitat, N. fulva invasion zones have lower non-ant arthropod species richness and abundance with impacts differing by trophic category. Further, N. fulva reduces abundance and species richness of the remainder of the ant assemblage and does so in a non-random manner: impacting species with small sized workers much less than species with larger workers. In these and other ant assemblages with a large exotic component, the exotics tend to be small bodied species. As a result, N. fulva almost completely eliminates regionally distributed species, but leaves globally distributed species largely unaffected, thereby systematically favoring introduced over native diversity. S. invicta impacts wildlife and arthropod assemblage structure and is nearly ubiquitous in non-forested habitats of the Southeastern United States and Texas. Its displacement by N. fulva has critical implications for the natural systems of this region.