Survey of invasive ants at Hakalau Forest NWR

Date
2016-01-26
Authors
Peck, Robert
Banko, Paul
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Abstract
We conducted a survey for invasive ants at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawai‘i Island, during 2009–2010 to evaluate potential threats to native arthropod communities and food webs. The focal area of the survey was the upper portion of the Hakalau Unit of the refuge, where native forest was being restored in abandoned cattle pastures. This area, between 1575 and 1940 m elevations, contained much alien kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum), but koa (Acacia koa) trees and other native species that were planted in the past 20 years were rapidly filling in the pasture. We surveyed for ants at pre-determined points along roads, fences, and corridors of planted koa. Sampling methods primarily consisted of hand searching and pitfall traps, but bait cards were used additionally in some instances. Our results indicated that a single species, Cardiocondyla kagutsuchi, was widespread across the upper portion of the refuge. Cardiocondyla kagutsuchi seemed absent, or at least rare, in areas of tall, dense grass. Due to the undulating topography of the area, however, the dense grass cover was interspersed with outcroppings of exposed, gravelly soil. Presumably due to warming by the sun, many of the outcropped habitats supported colonies of C. kagutsuchi. We did not detect ants in the old-growth forest below the abandoned pastures, presumably because microhabitat conditions under the forest canopy were unsuitable. Although ecological impacts of C. kagutsuchi have not been reported, they may be limited by the small size of the ant, the relatively small size of colonies, and the apparent preference of the ant for disturbed areas that are dominated by alien species. Notably, our survey of Keanakolu-Mana Road between the Observatory Road (John A. Burns Way) and the town of Waimea detected a population of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) approximately 5.1 km north of the Maulua Section of the refuge. We also surveyed for ants on the Kona Forest Unit of the refuge. This small survey focused on approximately 14 km of roads located below about 1600 m elevation. We found two species, Solenopsis papuana and Nylanderia bourbonica. Solenopsis papuana was more widespread, being found along the southern, northern, and western boundaries, while N. bourbonica was detected only at 790 m elevation on the southern boundary. Of the two species, S. papuana seemed more likely to affect native arthropod communities due to its tendency to form relatively large, aggressive colonies and its ability to inhabit intact mesic and wet forests below 1100 m elevation. In contrast, the restriction of N. bourbonica to disturbed habitats indicated a reduced threat to native arthropod communities. Our results on the Kona Forest Unit corroborated those of a study conducted during 1999–2000, although the earlier study was more intensive over time and yielded small numbers of two additional species, Cardiocondyla wroughtonii and Tetramorium bicarinatum, both of which were detected below 792 m elevation along the southern boundary.
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food webs, arthropod communities, sampling
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25
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