Variable responses of non-native and native ants to coarse woody debris removal following forest bioenergy harvests
Publication date: Available online 15 February 2018
Source: Forest Ecology and Management
Author(s): Steven M. Grodsky, Joshua W. Campbell, Sarah R. Fritts, T. Bently Wigley, Christopher E. Moorman
Timber harvests may facilitate ant invasions of forested landscapes, fostering interactions between non-native and native ants. Harvests that include removal of low-value woody biomass as forest bioenergy feedstock may reduce residual coarse woody debris, thereby altering food and cover resources for ant species. We manipulated: (1) volume and distribution of coarse woody debris in stand-scale treatments ranging from intensive coarse woody debris removal to no coarse woody debris removal; and (2) coarse woody debris availability at microsite locations within stand-scale treatments, including piles of hardwood stems, piles of conifer stems, and no pile locations in North Carolina, USA and windrows (i.e., long, linear piles of harvest residues) and no windrows in Georgia, USA, in recently clearcut pine plantations (n = 4 per state). We captured ants in regenerating stands and tested treatment- and location-level effects on non-native and native ant relative abundances. Invasive ants represented 19% of ant taxa richness, but comprised 94% of total ant captures. Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren, hereafter “RIFA”) dominated the ant community in young plantations. RIFA avoided windrows, but its relative abundance did not differ among stand-scale treatments. Coarse woody debris retention in stand-scale treatments and at microsite locations favored non-RIFA ants, including Asian needle ant (Brachyponera chinensis Emery) and several native ant species. Dual invasions of RIFA and Asian needle ant in young plantations of the eastern United States may commonly occur because the two species may not compete for resources on the forest floor. Reduction of coarse woody debris via intensified woody biomass harvesting may negatively affect non-RIFA ant species and promote RIFA colonization, thereby indirectly increasing deleterious effects of RIFA on other wildlife.
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