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


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 


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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

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