Roads Increase Population Growth Rates of a Native Leaf-cutter Ant in Neotropical Savannahs

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Emilio Bruna article april 2016Emilio Bruna, ATBC member/ Biotropica Editor and colleagues from University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies and Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Uberlandia, noted an explosion in population of leaf-cutter ants along roadsides in the Brazilian savanna ecosystem known as the Cerrado. This study, published this month in the Journal of Applied Ecology, present data from field surveys demonstrating that the number of ant colonies next to roads increases dramatically when compared to nearby areas of native vegetation. The researchers used mathematical models to show roadsides are the ideal habitat for queens to start their new colonies, which grow very rapidly.

“No matter where they are built, roads have unintended consequences for native plants and animals,” Bruna said. “Our results suggest that the impacts of roads on native biodiversity can have not only ecological impacts on other plants and animals, but potentially unexpected economic ones as well.”

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