The role of ants in conservation monitoring: If, when and how

TitleThe role of ants in conservation monitoring: If, when and how
Publication TypeJournal Article
Underwood EC, Fisher BL
Year of Publication2006

Ants are increasingly being recognized as useful tools for land managers to monitor ecosystem
conditions. However, despite an abundance of studies on ant responses to both environmental
disturbance and land management techniques, an analysis of the practice and
value of including ants in monitoring is lacking. Consequently, conservation managers are
left with little guidance as to if, when, and how ants can be used to assess conservation
activities. Based on our review of approximately 60 published studies, we outline five areas
where ants provide valuable information for management-based monitoring: (1) to detect
the presence of invasive species, (2) to detect trends among threatened or endangered species,
(3) to detect trends among keystone species, (4) to evaluate land management actions,
and (5) to assess long-term ecosystem changes. We also discuss practical considerations
when designing a monitoring framework for ants, including appropriate methods,
taxonomic resolution for sampling, and spatial and temporal scale.We find that when integrated
with management goals, monitoring ants can provide information over the shortterm
on topics such as the status of invasive or keystone species, as well as over longer
time frames, for instance the impact of climate change. Overall, we conclude that ants
merit monitoring based on their inherent ecological qualities, independent of any ‘‘indicator’’
attributes they might have.

JournalBiological Conservation
KeywordsClimate change, conservation, indicator, invasive, restoration, surrogate