Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate Change Affects Ants and Biodiversity

08.11.2011
Some people may consider them pests, but ants are key to many plants’ survival.

In the eastern US, ants are integral to plant biodiversity because they help disperse seeds. But ants' ability to perform this vital function, and others, may be jeopardized by climate change, according to Nate Sanders, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Sanders and his collaborators have received a grant for nearly $2 million from the National Science Foundation to examine the cascading effects of climate change on ant communities and the ecosystem functions they provide.

"Ants are critically important to most ecosystems," Sanders said. "They eat other insects, circulate nutrients, increase turnover in the soil, and move seeds around."

Sanders and his colleagues are testing the effects of climate change on ants by heating up patches of forest and tracking how the ants respond. Inside Duke Forest in North Carolina and Harvard Forest in Massachusetts lie twelve five-meter wide, open-top chambers. Air temperature is incrementally increased by half a degree Celsius in each chamber for a total of a six-degree changes and ant behavior observed.

The researchers, led by Katie Stuble from UT and Shannon Pelini at Harvard Forest, noticed dramatic changes in the ants' daily activity in each chamber.

"If the temperature increases by just a half a degree Celsius, the most important seed-dispersing ants basically shut down," said Sanders. "They do not go out and forage and do the things they normally do."

Stuble observed that, on average, the ants foraged for about ten hours a day at normal temperatures. When temperatures were raised just a half a degree, the ants stayed in their nests underground and foraged just an hour.

The absence of ants' seed dispersal and nutrient cycling could have profound influence on biodiversity. For instance, it is believed that more than half of the plants in the forest understory of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rely on ants for seed dispersal. Ants are found in ecosystems everywhere but in Antarctica and Iceland.

The researchers' goal is to provide information about the effects of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems.

"We know that climate change is happening," Sanders said. "Lots of models make predictions about how biodiversity is going to respond. It will either respond by adapting, moving or going extinct. If you can't keep up with climate change, you will go extinct."

Sanders and his team will collect data through 2015. He is collaborating with colleagues from Harvard University, North Carolina State University, and University of Vermont. The project began in 2007 with funding from the Department of Energy. The team's papers can be read at http://web.utk.edu/~nsanders/.

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)
Nate Sanders (865-974-5231, nsanders@utk.edu)

Whitney Heins | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.utk.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>