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Keywords:

  • Biological invasions;
  • invasive species;
  • Linepithema humile;
  • range limits;
  • rate of spread

ABSTRACT

Analysis of long-term patterns of invasion can reveal the importance of abiotic factors in influencing invasion dynamics, and can help predict future patterns of spread. In the case of the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), most prior studies have investigated this species’ limitations in hot and dry climates. However, spatial and temporal patterns of spread involving two ant populations over the course of 30 years at a high elevation site in Hawaii suggest that cold and wet conditions have influenced both the ant's distribution and its rate of invasion. In Haleakala National Park on Maui, we found that a population invading at lower elevation is limited by increasing rainfall and presumably by associated decreasing temperatures. A second, higher elevation population has spread outward in all directions, but rates of spread in different directions appear to have been strongly influenced by differences in elevation and temperature. Patterns of foraging activity were strongly tied to soil temperatures, supporting the hypothesis that variation in temperature can influence rates of spread. Based on past patterns of spread, we predicted a total potential range that covers nearly 50% of the park and 75% of the park's subalpine habitats. We compared this rough estimate with point predictions derived from a degree-day model for Argentine ant colony reproduction, and found that the two independent predictions match closely when soil temperatures are used in the model. The cold, wet conditions that have influenced Argentine ant invasion at this site are likely to be influential at other locations in this species’ current and future worldwide distribution.