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Ants and Environmental Monitoring

Ants are especially common in Australia. They occur in large numbers in all habitats and all regions. Ant communities change significantly when environmental conditions are altered. As a consequence, the monitoring of ant communities has become an important component of environmental inventories. A wide range of government and non-government agencies and private companies use the monitoring of ant communities to assist them in making decisions about managing the environment.

It is well known that bush fires can cause significant damage to the environment, but properly managed fire can actually improve conditions for many plants and animals. To determine optimal fire regimes and thus protect the environment, extensive studies have been completed to determine the effects of different burning practices. Ants have proven very useful in determining the effects of fire and thus in developing management strategies which minimise its impact. For additional information, see Andersen (1991, 1993) and Majer (1990).

The monitoring of ant communities has proven to be a useful tool when determining management strategies or while evaluating the recovery of areas after severe disturbance. For example, inventories of the ants present in a minesite before disturbance have proved to be very useful in establishing the baseline conditions for successful restoration. Ants also play an important role in monitoring ecosystems and in determining priorities with regard to conservation and sustainable use.

Literature Cited/Additional Reading
Andersen, A. N. 1991. Responses of ground-foraging ant communities to three experimental fire regimes in a savanna forest of tropical Australia. Biotropica. 23 : 575–585.
Andersen, A. N. 1993. Ants as indicators of restoration success at a uranium mine in tropical Australia. Restoration Ecology. 1 : 156–167.
Majer, J. D. 1990. The role of ants in land reclamation seeding operations. pp. 544–554 in Vander Meer, R. K., Jaffe, K., Cedeño, A. Applied Myrmecology: A world perspective. Boulder, Colorado : Westview Press. 741 pp.

 

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