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Ants as ecological indicators

September 1, 2009
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Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Aaron Ellison spent a week at the beach, working with Parks Canada and the staff of Prince Edward Island (PEI) National Park on developing a monitoring protocol for using ant diversity as an indicator of ecological integrity of this coastal national park. The absence of exotic ants on PEI, but their presence in nearby Nova Scotia, suggested monitoring for the future occurrence of two exotic species - the pavement ant Tetramorium caespitum and the European fire ant Myrmica rubra. In New England, T. caespitum nests not only in sidewalks and driveways but also on sand dunes (at the base of dune grass or marram grass (Ammophila breviligulata) and beaches. But on PEI, the native Lasius neoniger still occurs in these habitats. Myrmica rubra is a wetland and coastal species not yet recorded from PEI, but that already is a pest throughout eastern Maine and has recently been found in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Both ants are most likely to colonize PEI on the cars and feet of tourists who flock to the island to visit the home of Anne of Green Gables.

Listen to an interview on this topic that Aaron gave to the CBC.

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