Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 9, pp 1221-1244

First online:

Ant biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem functioning: a review

  • Patricia J. FolgaraitAffiliated withIFEVA, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires

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Ants are important components of ecosystems not only because they constitute a great part of the animal biomass but also because they act as ecosystem engineers. Ant biodiversity is incredibly high and these organisms are highly responsive to human impact, which obviously reduces its richness. However, it is not clear how such disturbance damages the maintenance of ant services to the ecosystem. Ants are important in below ground processes through the alteration of the physical and chemical environment and through their effects on plants, microorganisms, and other soil organisms. This review summarizes the information available on ant biodiversity patterns, how it can be quantified, and how biodiversity is affected by human impacts such as land use change, pollution, invasions, and climate change. The role of ants in ecosystems is discussed, mainly from the perspective of the effects of ground-dwelling ants on soil processes and function, emphasizing their role as ecosystem engineers. Some lines of research are suggested after demonstrating the gaps in our current information on ant-soil interactions.

ants biodiversity ecosystem engineers mounds soil function