Do long-lived ants affect soil microbial communities?

Walter G. Whitford, Orit Ginzburg, Naama Berg, Yosef Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study was designed to test the hypothesis that desert ant species that build nests that remain viable at a particular point in space for more than a decade produce soil conditions that enhance microbial biomass and functional diversity. We studied the effects of a seed-harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, and two generalist ant species, Aphaenogaster cockerelli and Myrmecocystus depilis, on soil microbial communities. Microbial biomass was higher in P. rugosus-modified soils than in reference soils when soil water content was higher than 3%. Microbial biomass was either higher in reference soils or exhibited no difference in reference soils and nest-modified soils of A. cockerelli and M. depilis. There were differences in microbial functional diversity and microbial community level physiological profiles (MicroResp method) between ant-nest-modified and reference soils of the three ant species on some sampling dates. Temporal patterns of soil microbial communities associated with the ant species resulted from differences in soil moisture, density, and species composition of the annual plant communities associated with the ant nests and in reference areas. Differences in annual plant communities associated with ant nests and surrounding areas resulted in different chemical inputs into the soil organic-matter pools. This study shows that generalizations about the effects of long-lived ant nests on soil biota in arid regions must consider feeding behaviors of the ant species and temporal patterns of rainfall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-233
Number of pages7
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Volume48
Issue number2
Early online date27 Sep 2011
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Many thanks to Ms. S. Victor for her useful comments and help. This research was supported by Grant number Y410375-04R-22 from the International Arid Lands Consortium and is a contribution to the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Program.

Funding

Acknowledgments Many thanks to Ms. S. Victor for her useful comments and help. This research was supported by Grant number Y410375-04R-22 from the International Arid Lands Consortium and is a contribution to the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Program.

FundersFunder number
International Arid Lands Consortium
National Science Foundation1235828

    Keywords

    • Aphaenogaster cockerelli
    • Climate
    • Community-level physiological profile (CLPP)
    • Functional diversity
    • MicroResp method
    • Microbial biomass
    • Myrmecocystus depilis
    • Pogonomyrmex rugosus

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