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 Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

Im Focus: Dynamics of individual proteins

New measurement method allows researchers to precisely follow the movement of individual molecules over long periods of time

The function of proteins – the molecular tools of the cell – is governed by the interplay of their structure and dynamics. Advances in electron microscopy have...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

Major Project: The New Silk Road

01.10.2018 | Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physics: Not everything is where it seems to be

15.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Microfluidic molecular exchanger helps control therapeutic cell manufacturing

15.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Link between Gut Flora and Multiple Sclerosis Discovered

15.10.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>