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2009 Harvard Forest REU Student Symposium Abstracts

Daniella Rodriguez - Arizona Western College

Under Warmer Conditions, the Advantage of Improved Foraging is negated by Increased Mortality in Apheanogaster rudis


Ants are an important part of our ecosystem although people may not realize this because we think of them as pests. We rely on ants for ecosystem services such as decomposition, soil turnover, and seed dispersal. Ant activities that facilitate these services- survival and foraging- are strongly correlated with temperature, making them sensitive to climate change. Recent studies on insects have linked climate change to increased range shifts, extinctions and changes of ecosystem processes. To understand how increasing temperatures may affect ants, I performed a greenhouse experiment with Aphaenogaster rudis, a common species at Harvard Forest. I placed field-collected A. rudis nests under infrared lamps with temperatures at ambient, +2C, +4C or +8C. I measured survival and conducted feeding trials in multiple colonies in each temperature treatment for three weeks. I gave A. rudis colonies 20 seeds daily and recorded time to discovery and foraging rate. I found that increases in temperature do affect survival and foraging activity in A. rudis. My results show that food was found faster in warmer temperatures; however, there was also higher mortality in warmest conditions. Therefore, the ecosystem services provided by ants may be positively affected under climate change if temperatures do not exceed increases of 4C, but this could be reversed at higher temperatures.

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