Monday, December 10, 2007 - 9:29 AM

The impact of the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) on soil food webs

Kyle Gregory Wickings,, University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology, Ecology Annex, University of Georgia, Athens, GA and John Ruberson,, University of Georgia, Department of Entomology, Coastal Plain Experiment Station, P.O. Box 748, Tifton, GA.

The Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) is a common arthropod in most, if not all, disturbed soils of the southern United States. Introduced from South America in the late 1930ís, the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) now plays a significant role in shaping arthropod communities. Aside from their well-understood role in aboveground foodwebs, there is also a limited body of evidence suggesting that the RIFA may have a significant impact on soil fauna. This study examines soil arthropod community dynamics over the course of one growing season at the Horseshoe Bend Agroecosystem in Athens, GA in both the presence and absence of fire ants. The overarching theme for research at this site deals with the sequestration of soil organic carbon under different agricultural management strategies. Given the important role of soil arthropods in the processing of soil organic matter, this study may have implications at both community and ecosystem levels. Results from analysis at the whole-community level (abundance, richness and diversity) indicate that the exclusion of fire ants can increase soil arthropod diversity, however, the response was mixed at the species level suggesting that predation is not the only mechanism by which fire ants affect the soil food web.

Species 1: Hymenoptera Formicidae Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ant, fire ant)