Effects of a Common Harvester Ant (Messor andrei) on Richness and Abundance of Soil Biota

EPA Grant Number: U915788
Title: Effects of a Common Harvester Ant (Messor andrei) on Richness and Abundance of Soil Biota
Investigators: Boulton, April M.
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period:    
Project Amount: $79,290
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Terrestrial Ecology and Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objective of this research project is to examine a variety of questions stemming from ant richness and abundance.


Much of this project and my dissertation focuses on factors affecting ant richness and on how ants influence the diversity and abundance of soil organisms. I document the abiotic and biotic components that affect ant richness on desert islands in the Sea of Cortés, where plants, seabirds, and island area explained most of the variation in ant species number across islands. I address similar questions for ground-dwelling ants in a northern California grassland. In this grassland ecosystem, soil properties explained most of the variation in ant richness and abundance across sites, and plant community properties did not consistently correlate with ant abundance or richness. I also illustrate that nests of the granivorous ant, Messor andrei, have a positive impact on both soil food webs and chemistry, and I suggest a possible mechanism behind this "ant effect" via results from a field experiment. Finally, I reviewed research on a rare case of brood parasitism among spiders from the Mojave Desert.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, ant, ant richness, soil organisms, abiotic, biotic, grassland, granivorous ant, Messor andrei, brood parasitism, spiders, Mojave Desert, soil, desert island, soil food web, ground-dwelling ants.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • Final