Invasive ants reduce abundance of small rainforest skinks

Lach, Lori, Case, Dylan, Yeeles, Peter, and Hoskin, Conrad J. (2022) Invasive ants reduce abundance of small rainforest skinks. Biodiversity and Conservation, 31. pp. 739-755.

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Abstract

Invasive ants are among the world's most damaging invasive species, often directly or indirectly affecting native fauna. Insecticidal baits are the main method for suppressing or eradicating invasive ant populations, but their use must be considered against potential for unintended effects on native organisms. The invasive yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracillipes) is widespread in the tropics, particularly on islands, where they have displaced a range of invertebrates. Effects of this ant on vertebrates, and in continental ecosystems generally, are less studied. We investigated the effects of yellow crazy ants and bait application on rainforest skinks and their invertebrate prey. We compared skink and skink prey abundance across four replicated rainforest site categories: high and low yellow crazy ant sites had both been baited but differed in yellow crazy ant activity; control sites had never had yellow crazy ants or been baited; and buffer sites had never had yellow crazy ants but had been baited. We recorded significantly lower abundance of two small skink species (Lygisaurus laevis and Saproscincus tetradactylus) in high yellow crazy ant sites compared to all other site categories. The differences persisted even after baiting reduced yellow crazy ant activity by 97.8% +/- 0.04% (mean +/- SD). A larger rainforest skink species (Carlia rubrigularis) was not negatively affected by yellow crazy ant invasion. Skink prey abundance was significantly lower in high yellow crazy ant sites compared to control sites and low yellow crazy ant sites, but not compared to buffer sites. These differences did not persist following baiting. We found no evidence that baiting negatively affects skinks or their invertebrate prey. Our data suggest that yellow crazy ants, but not the bait used to treat them, pose a direct threat to small rainforest skinks.

Item ID: 72222
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1572-9710
Keywords: Biodiversity hotspot,Baiting,Indirect effects,Invertebrate prey,Wet Tropics World Heritage Area,Yellow crazy ants
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Funders: James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 11:24
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410202 Biosecurity science and invasive species ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180602 Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments @ 100%
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