Tropical ant community responses to experimental soil warming

Jelena Bujan, Andrew T. Nottingham, Esther Velasquez, Patrick Meir, Michael Kaspari, Stephen P. Yanoviak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change is one of the primary agents of the global decline in insect abundance. Because of their narrow thermal ranges, tropical ectotherms are predicted to be most threatened by global warming, yet tests of this prediction are often confounded by other anthropogenic disturbances. We used a tropical forest soil warming experiment to directly test the effect of temperature increase on litter-dwelling ants. Two years of continuous warming led to a change in ant community between warming and control plots. Specifically, six ant genera were recorded only on warming plots, and one genus only on control plots. Wasmannia auropuctata, a species often invasive elsewhere but native to this forest, was more abundant in warmed plots. Ant recruitment at baits was best predicted by soil surface temperature and ant heat tolerance. These results suggest that heat tolerance is useful for predicting changes in daily foraging activity, which is directly tied to colony fitness. We show that a 2-year increase in temperature (of 2–4°C) can have a profound effect on the most abundant insects, potentially favouring species with invasive traits and moderate heat tolerances.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2022


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