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Harvard Forest REU Symposium Abstract 2006

  • Title: Ants and soil respiration in a Hemlock removal experiment at the Harvard Forest
  • Author: ()
  • Abstract:

    Although Edward O. Wilson claims that “ants are the little things that run the world”, we understand very little about how exactly ants or other soil-dwelling invertebrates influence ecosystem processes. Some work has suggested that ants may increase the production of carbon dioxide in the soil by aerating it, as well as moving organic matter and nutrients and encouraging plant and fungus growth. However, we do not understand how their roles will change as The Eastern Hemlock disappears from western Massachusetts because of invasion from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and preemptive logging In order to determine what influence ants have on soil respiration in our changing landscape, we installed two 2× 2-m ant enclosures, disturbance controls and control plots in each of the eight large plots (hemlock control, hardwood control, girdled and logged plots) of the Hemlock Removal Experiment at the Simes tract at the Harvard Forest, Worchester, Ma. We placed 2 pitfall traps in each plot and took 3 samples over the course of the summer to test if the ant enclosures are successful in excluding the ants. We measured the soil respiration in each plot once every two weeks using an Infra Red Gas Analyzer (IRGA) Licor model LI-6252. Although the exclosures, disturbance controls and controls did not have a significant affect on the overall abundance of ants in the plots, none of the most common soil-dwelling ants (Aphaenogaster rudis, Camponotus pennsylvanicus Lasius alienus and Lasius umbratus) were found in the exclosures during August. The production of CO2 in the soil did not change across the four larger canopy manipulations or the exclosure treatments. However, it is likely that the experiment needs to continue how several more years before it any trends can be determined. Future research needs to be done on the abundance and distance of ant nests from the plots in order to determine if active nests influence soil respiration.

  • Research Category: Invasive Plants, Pests & Pathogens; Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies