Synergistic impact of invasive alien plants and the alien Argentine ant on local ant assemblages in the Western Cape

Schoeman, Colin Stefan (2008-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Alien trees, Pinus spp. and Eucalyptus spp., affect ants negatively in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), a global biodiversity hotspot in South Africa. They reduce ant abundance and species richness, thus also changing ant assemblage structure. This is alarming, because almost 1300 species of plant species in the CFR are dispersed by certain indigenous ants, and thus there is concern for an indirect effect on indigenous plant assemblages. One of the most impacting ant species on seed dispersal is the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile (Mayr)), which discards seeds outside its nest, where they do not germinate. Ten sites, on Vergelegen Wine Estate, were selected to explore these effects of alien plants. These varied from invaded to non-invaded sites. Each site consisted of six sampling points, which in turn consisted of four pitfall traps left out for seven days, during December 2005, February 2006, May 2006 and September 2006. Forty species of ant were sampled, and various analyses used to illustrate the comparative effects of plant invasion. All analytical methods showed that invasive alien plants had a significant impact on the abundance and richness of the ant species assemblage, by creating a dense canopy cover that changed the abiotic environment of the epigaeic ants’ habitat. Furthermore, increased alien tree invasion correlated significantly with Argentine ant abundances. The Argentine ant displaced Pheidole capensis and Camponotus spp., while it decreased the abundances of commonly-occurring indigenous ants, such as Lepisiota capensis and Plagiolepis spp. Displacement by the Argentine ant may be a result of indirect competition for food resources. The effects of invasive aliens are synergistic in that there is a cascade effects from initial plant invasions to subsequent animal invasion.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Indringer bome, Pinus en Eucalyptus, affekteer miere op negatiewe wyse in die Kaap Florsitiese Streek (KFR), ‘n area in Suid Afrika van belang t.o.v. globale biodiversiteit. Hierdie uitheemse indringer bome verminder hulle hoeveelheid en spesies rykheid. Die bogenoemde is kommerwekkend omdat meer as 1300 plant spesies in the KFR versprei word deur miere. Die verandering in hoeveelheid en versameling van inheemse miere kan dus ernstige implikasies hê op die saad verspreiding van inheemse plant spesies. Een van die mees verwoestende effekte op saad verspreiding is veroorsaak deur die indringer Argentynse mier (Linepithema humile (Mayr)), wat sade neer werp buite hulle neste, waar hulle nie suksesvol kan ontkiem nie. Tien monsterings-tereine was geselekteer om die bogenoemde effekte te ondersoek op Vergelegen Landgoed. Hierdie het afgewissel van indringer tot skoon tereine. Elke terrein is op ses versamelings-plekke gemonster, met vier pitvalle, wat oopgelê het vir sewe dae gedurende Desember 2005, Februarie 2006, Mei 2006 en September 2006. 40 spesies van miere was gemonster. Indringer plante het ‚n betekenisvolle impak gehad het op die hoeveelheid en rykheid van die mier gemeenskappe, deur die skepping van ‚n dig baldakyn wat die abiotiese omgewing van die miere se habitat verander het. Die vermeerdering van indringer plante veroorsaak die vermeerdering van Argentyne miere. Kanonieke Mede-Respons Analise illustreer dat die Argentynse mier Pheidole capensis en Camponotus spp. verplaas het, terwyl dit ander inheemse mier getalle verminder het, soos Lepisiota capensis en Plagiolepis spp. Die verplasing deur die Argentynse mier mag die resultaat wees van indirekte wedywering vir hulpbronne. Die effekte van indringer species is dus sinergisties deur dat ‚n kaskade effek ontstaan vanaf plant tot dier indringer spesies.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/21759
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