, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 335-346

Distribution of the red imported fire ant, shape Solenopsis invicta, in road and powerline habitats

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Abstract

For early-successional species, road and powerline cuts through forests provide refugia and source populations for invading adjacent forest gaps. Within an 800 km2 forest matrix in South Carolina, we determined if width, disturbance frequency or linear features of road and powerline cuts influenced the mound distribution of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. For each of five linear habitat types, differing in width and disturbance frequency, we mapped all mounds located within ten 500 m segments. Mean mound density was lowest in narrow, infrequently-disturbed closed-canopy dirt road habitats (8.8 mounds/ha). For types with an opening in the forest canopy (i.e., open dirt road, gravel road, paved road and powerline cut), mean mound density was highest in narrow habitats where disturbance was intermediate (open dirt roads, 86.5 mounds/ha). It was lowest in wide habitats where disturbance was infrequent (powerline cuts, 27.6 mounds/ha). Mean mound size was greater in infrequently-disturbed powerline cuts than in frequently-disturbed paved roads. Mounds were located significantly closer to road or forest edges than expected by random. In all types except dirt roads, mounds were more common toward northern edges, and more so as the orientation of the linear habitat changed from north/south to east/west. These data suggest that narrow, disturbed habitats are more suitable for fire ant establishment and success than wider ones, and that the distribution of fire ants in linear habitats is not as uniform as it has been shown to be in pastures. A decrease in roadside disturbance and an increase in shade, especially along the northern edge, may result in lower fire ant mound density in these linear habitats.