Little ants impact environment in big way

Sunday, February 6, 2011

LONDON - Little ants impact the environment in a big way, thanks to their role as ‘ecosystem engineers’ and predators, a British study has found.

A University of Exeter study found that ants have two distinct effects on environment. They move soil by building nests and they affect the level of nutrients in the soil by collecting food.

This can indirectly impact the population of many animal groups, from decomposers such as Collembola, to species much higher up the food chain, the Journal of Animal Ecology reports.

The ants prey on a wide range of other animals too, according to an Exeter university statement.

“Ants are very effective predators who thrive in huge numbers. They’re also very territorial and aggressive… All of this means they have a strong influence on their surrounding area,” said study author Dirk Sanders.

“What we found is that despite being predators, their presence can also lead to an increase in density and diversity of other animal groups. They genuinely play a key role in the local environment, having a big influence on the grassland food web,” Sanders said.

The study, carried out in Germany, investigated the impact of the presence of different combinations and densities of black garden ants and common red ants.

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