Eciton army ants - umbrella species for conservation in neotropical forests

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Identification of priority areas for conservation is crucial for the maintenance and protection of biodiversity in particular in tropical forests where biodiversity continues to be lost at unprecedented rates. Surveys and research on umbrella species can provide efficient and effective approaches to identify potential areas for conservation at small geographical scales. Army ants of the genus Eciton are keystone species in neotropical forests due to their major role as top predators and due to the numerous vertebrate and invertebrate associated species that depend upon their colonies for survival. These associates range from the iconic army ant-following birds to a wide range of arthropod groups some of which have evolved intricate morphological, behavioural and/or chemical strategies to conceal their presence and integrate into the colony life. Furthermore, Eciton colonies require large forested areas to support a diverse leaf litter prey community and several field-based and genetic studies have demonstrated the negative consequences of forest fragmentation for the long-term maintenance of these colonies. This review summarises past and recent accounts of the main taxonomic groups found associated with Eciton colonies, as well research assessing the impact of forest fragmentation on this army ant, to encourage the adoption of Eciton army ants as umbrella species to identify priority areas for conservation and to assess the effect of disturbance in neotropical forests.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDiversity
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • antbird
  • army ant
  • biodiversity
  • biological indicator
  • conservation
  • deforestation
  • habitat fragmentation
  • myrmecophiles
  • mimicry
  • species interactions
  • tropics

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