Advertisement

Environmental Management

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 671–675 | Cite as

A pest is a pest is a pest? The dilemma of neotropical leaf-cutting ants: Keystone taxa of natural ecosystems

  • Harold G. Fowler
  • Maria Inez Pagani
  • Osvaldo Aulino Da Silva
  • Luis Carlos Forti
  • Virgilio Pereira Da Silva
  • Heraldo Luis De Vasconcelos
Profile

Abstract

Leaf-cutting ants of the generaAcromyrmex andAtta are considered the principal polyphagous pests of the Neotropics Although some members of these genera are of economic importance, have a broad geographic distribution, and are extremely good colonizers, others are endemic and closely interact with native ecosystems. Control is generally practiced against any colony, irrespective of its taxonomic status. Indiscriminate control coupled with habitat destruction threatens endemic species with extinction, and, through habitat simplification, favors other pest species. As nests ofAtta are large, having several square meters of nest surface, the endemic taxa can be easily used as environmental indicators for natural ecosystems Likewise, the pest species can be used to detect environmental disturbance As these ants are keystone species and easily identified by nonspecialists, efforts should be made to integrate these into viable conservation programs

Key words

Environmental indicators Keystone species Neotropics Leaf-cutting ants 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Alvarado, A., C. W. Berish, and F. Peralta. 1981. Leaf-cutter ant (Atta cephalotes) influence on the morphology of andepts in Costa Rica.Journal of the Soil Scientists of America 45:790–794.Google Scholar
  2. Brieger, F. G. 1969. Patterns of evolutionary and geographical distribution in neotropical orchids. Pages 197–208in R. H. Lowe-McConnell (ed.), Speciation in tropical environments. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, K. S., Jr., P. Sheppard, and J. Turner. 1974. Quartenary refugia in tropical America: evidence from race formation in Heliconius butterflies.Proceedings of the Royal Society 187:368–378.Google Scholar
  4. Cherrett, J. M. 1986. The economic importance and control of leaf-cutting ants. Pages 165–192in S. B. Vinson (ed.), Economic impact and control of social insects. Praeger, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Coutinho, L. M. 1982. Aspectos ecologicos da sauva no cerrado. Os murundus de terra, as caracteristicas psamofiticas das especies de sua vegetacao, e sua invasao pelo capim gordura.Revista Brasileira de Biologia 42:147–153.Google Scholar
  6. Coutinho, L. M. 1984. Aspectos ecologicos da sauva no cerrado. A sauva, as queimadas e sua possivel relacao na cidagem de nutrientes minerals.Boletin de Zoologie, Universidade de São Paulo 8:1–9.Google Scholar
  7. Cramer, H. H. 1967. Plant protection and world crop production.Pflanzenschutz Nachricten 20:1–524.Google Scholar
  8. Ehrlich, P., and A. Ehrlich. 1981. Extinction: the causes and consequences of the disappearance of species. Random House, New York. 305 pp.Google Scholar
  9. Fowler, H. G. 1977. Some factors influencing colony spacing and survival in the grass-cutting ant,Acromyrmex landolti fracticornis (Forel) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), in Paraguay.Revista de Biologia Tropical 25:89–99.Google Scholar
  10. Fowler, H. G. 1983a. Latitudinal gradients and diversity in the leaf-cutting ants (Atta andAcromyrmex) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).Revista de Biologia Tropical 25:89–99.Google Scholar
  11. Fowler, H. G. 1983b. Distribution patterns of Paraguayan leaf-cutting ants. (Atta andAcromyrmex) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Attini).Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 18:121–138.Google Scholar
  12. Fowler, H. G. 1985. The leaf-cutting ants (Atta andAcromyrmex) of Paraguay.Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift N.F. 32:19–34.Google Scholar
  13. Fowler, H. G., and L. C. Forti. 1989a. Methods for the evaluation of leaf-cutting ant harvest.In R. K. Vander Meer, K. Jaffe, and A. Cedeno-Leon (eds.), Applied myrmecology. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.Google Scholar
  14. Fowler, H. G., and L. C. Forti. 1989b. Leaf-cutting ants: Their importance in maintaining species diversity.Ciencia e Cultura (in press).Google Scholar
  15. Fowler, H. G., and B. L. Haines. 1983. Diversidad de especies de hormigas y termitas de tumulo en cuanto a la sucesion vegetal en praderas paraguayas. Pages 187–201in P. Jaisson (ed.), Social insects in the tropics, Vol. 2. Université Paris Presses, Paris.Google Scholar
  16. Fowler, H. G., and S. W. Robinson. 1980. Field identification and relative pest status of Paraguayan leaf-cutting ants.Turrialba 29:11–17.Google Scholar
  17. Fowler, H. G., L. C. Forti, V. Perreira da Silva, and N. B. Saes. 1986. Economics of grass-cutting ants. Pages 18–35in C. S. Lofgren and R. K. Vander Meer (eds.), Fire Ants and Leaf-Cutting Ants: Biology and Management. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.Google Scholar
  18. Gosswald, K. 1985. Die Waldameise als Bioindikator der Waldverberbnis mit besonderer Berucksichtingung der Koniginnenmassenzucht.Zeitschrift fuer Angewandte Zoologie 72:345–378.Google Scholar
  19. Haffer, J. 1974. Avian speciation in tropical South America, with a systematic survey of the toucans (Ramphastidae) and jacamara (Galbulidae). Nuthill Ornithology Club, No. 14, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 390 pp.Google Scholar
  20. Haines, B. L. 1975. Impact of leaf-cutting ants on vegetation development at Barro Colorado Island. Pages 99–111in F. Golley and E. Medina (eds.), Tropical ecological systems. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Jonkman, J. C. M. 1978. Nests of the leaf-cutting ant,Atta vollenweideri, as accelerators of succession in pastures.Zeitschrift fuer Angewandte Entomologie 86:25–34.Google Scholar
  22. Lugo, A. E., E. G. Farnsworth, D. G. Pool, P. Jerez, and G. Kaufman. 1973. The impact of the leaf-cutter ant,Atta colombica, on the energy flow of a tropical rain forest.Ecology 54:1292–1306.Google Scholar
  23. Muller, P. 1972. Centers for dispersal and evolution in the Neotropical region.Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 7:173–185.Google Scholar
  24. Prance, G. T. 1973. Phytogeographic support for the theory of Pleistocene forest refuges in the Amazon Basin, based on evidence from distribution patterns in Caryocaraceae, Chrysobalanaceae, Dichapetalaceae and Lecythidaceae.Acta Amazonica 3:5–28.Google Scholar
  25. Vanzolini, P. E., and E. E. Williams. 1970. South American anoles: geographic differentiation and evolution of theAnolis chrysolepis species group (Sauria, Iguanidae).Arquivos de Zoologia Sao Paulo 19:1–298.Google Scholar
  26. Weber, N. A. 1972. Gardening ants: the attines.Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society 92:1–146.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold G. Fowler
    • 1
  • Maria Inez Pagani
    • 1
  • Osvaldo Aulino Da Silva
    • 1
  • Luis Carlos Forti
    • 2
  • Virgilio Pereira Da Silva
    • 2
  • Heraldo Luis De Vasconcelos
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)Rio Claro, Sao PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)Botucatu, Sao PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de EcologiaInstitute Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA)Manaus, AmazonasBrazil

Personalised recommendations