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Wildlife corridors sometimes help invasive species spread, UF research finds
Date:8/6/2014

eed corridors to get around. Fire ants turned out to be an exception that proves the rule.

They have two social forms: monogyne and polygyne. Monogyne fire ants fly high in the air to mate and disperse, raining down to create new colonies. Polygyne fire ants, on the other hand, mate low to the ground and sometimes crawl short distances to create new colonies. They don't spread widely and their colonies are dense.

Resasco and his team went to South Carolina to study eight sections of land, each dominated by one of the two social forms. Each section consisted of five patches of regenerating habitat. Each patch was about the size of a football field. Some were connected by a corridor and others were not, allowing the researchers to study the influence of corridors.

The researchers found that corridors significantly increased the abundance of polygyne -- but not monogyne -- fire ants. In polygyne sections, native ant species' diversity was lower in patches connected by corridors than in unconnected patches. That was most likely due to the higher fire ant abundance, according to the study.

Ultimately, Resasco said, whether corridors spread invasive species depends on dispersal ability: "It is not a coincidence that the readily dispersing monogyne form of fire ants doesn't benefit from corridors, whereas the poorly dispersing polygyne form does." For better or worse, poorly dispersing invasive species are exceptional.

More analysis is necessary to determine whether the effects of corridors on invasive species are transient or permanent. In the meantime, Resasco's paper urges land managers to consider animals' traits when making decisions about land corridors. In rare cases, their best intentions could backfire by aiding invasive species.


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Contact: Julian Resasco
jresasco@colorado.edu
352-222-5917
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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