Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 2399–2412 | Cite as

The spread of the Argentine ant: environmental determinants and impacts on native ant communities

  • Núria Roura-Pascual
  • Josep M. Bas
  • Cang Hui
Original Paper


The increasing numbers of invasive species have stimulated the study of the underlying causes promoting the establishment and spread of exotic species. We tracked the spread of the highly invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) along an environmental and habitat gradient on the northeastern Iberian Peninsula to determine the role of climatic, habitat and biotic variables on the rate of spread, and examine impact on native ant communities. We found the species well-established within natural environments. The mean annual rate of spread of the invasion (7.94 ± 2.99 m/year) was relatively low compared to other studies, suggesting that resistance posed by native ants in natural environments with no or low human disturbance might delay (although not prevent) the spread of the invasion irrespectively of the land-use type. Factors related to the distance to urban areas and characteristics of native and introduced populations explained the rate of spread of the invasion, while habitat-related variables determined the distribution of native ants and the impact of the Argentine ant on them. Native ant communities became more homogeneous following the invasion due to the decline of species richness and abundance. Only few species (Plagiolepis pygmaea and Temnothorax spp.) were able to cope with the spread of the invasion, and were possibly favored by the local extinction of other ant species. Taken together, our results indicate that land uses per se do not directly affect the spread of L. humile, but influence its invasive success by molding the configuration of native ant communities and the abiotic suitability of the site.


Biological invasions Biotic homogenization Functional groups Mediterranean-type ecosystems Occupancy–abundance relationships 



Special thanks to A. Seglar and M. Rot for their unconditional assistance during the field work. C. Gómez, P. Pons, P.C. le Roux, J. Hortal, S. Clusella-Trullas, A. Terauds and two anonymous Referees provided valuable comments on the manuscript, X. Espadaler helped with the identification of ant species, and M. Clavero and M. De Cáceres provided valuable advice on statistical analysis. Financial support for this study came from Beatriu de Pinós Postdoctoral Grant (2006 BP-A 10124) from the Catalan Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (in support of NRP), the Ministry of Education and Science of the Spanish Government CGL2004-05240-C02-02/BOS (NRP and JMB).

Supplementary material

10530_2009_9650_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (22 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Núria Roura-Pascual
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Josep M. Bas
    • 1
  • Cang Hui
    • 2
  1. 1.Departament de Ciències AmbientalsUniversitat de GironaGironaCatalonia
  2. 2.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and ZoologyUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa
  3. 3.Àrea de BiodiversitatCentre Tecnològic i Forestal de CatalunyaSolsonaCatalonia

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