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Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 9, pp 3093–3108 | Cite as

Yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) invasions within undisturbed mainland Australian habitats: no support for biotic resistance hypothesis

  • Benjamin D. Hoffmann
  • Wolf-Christian Saul
Original Paper

Abstract

Ants are highly successful invaders, especially on islands, yet undisturbed mainland environments often do not contain invasive ants, and this observation is largely attributed to biotic resistance. An exception is the incursion of Yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes within northeast Arnhem Land. The existence of A. gracilipes within this landscape’s intact environments containing highly competitive ant communities indicates that biotic resistance is not a terminally inhibitory factor mediating this ant’s distribution at the regional scale. We test whether biotic resistance may still operate at a more local scale by assessing whether ecological impacts are proportional to habitat suitability for A. gracilipes, as well as to the competitiveness of the invaded ant community. The abundance and species richness of native ants were consistently greater in uninfested than infested plots but the magnitude of the impacts did not differ between habitats. The abundance and ordinal richness of other macro-invertebrates were consistently lower in infested plots in all habitats. A significant negative relationship was found for native ant abundance and A. gracilipes abundance. No relationships were found between A. gracilipes abundance and any measure of other macro-invertebrates. The relative contribution of small ants (<2.5 mm) to total abundance and relative species richness was always greater in infested sites coinciding with a reduction of the contribution of the larger size classes. Differences in the relative abundance of ant functional groups between infested and uninfested sites reflected impacts according to ant size classes and ecology. The widespread scale of these incursions and non-differential level of impacts among the habitats, irrespective of native ant community competitiveness and abiotic suitability to A. gracilipes, does not support the biotic resistance hypothesis.

Keywords

Ant Biological invasion Monsoonal tropics Savanna Species diversity 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the traditional land owners of northeast Arnhem Land for access to the study areas, and Balupalu Yunupingu for assistance in the field. Alan Andersen and Tony Hertog aided invertebrate identifications, Warren Müller gave statistical advice and Flavio Roces supported the project. Financial support was granted to WCS by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). We especially thank all researchers who provided their data for inclusion in Table 1, and Monica Gruber who drafted Fig. 1. The manuscript was improved by comments from Alan Andersen, Paul Krushelnycky and two anonymous reviewers. This paper summarizes the diploma thesis of WCS.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsWinnellieAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral Physiology and SociobologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  3. 3.Chair of Landscape EcologyTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany

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