Population recovery and spatial dynamics of colony recruitment in a harvester ant: a case study in a park


Takeshi Yamaguchi, Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba, 955-2 Aoba-cho, Chuo-ku, Chiba-shi, 260-8682 Japan. Email: yamaguchi@chiba-muse.or.jp


The recovery process of Messor aciculatus (Fr. Smith) harvester ant colonies from habitat disturbance by construction work in an urban park was investigated from 1989 to 1994. Colonies located in 1989 were considered to be survivors of the disturbance, and colonies located for the first time after 1990 were considered to be recruits. The colonies continuously increased in number after the disturbance, and the population size more than doubled just after the disturbance. Analyses of the nest site distribution of colonies in 1989 and 1994 suggest that landform modification destroyed some of them, and that the changed nest site distribution in 1989 affected the distribution in 1994, or, in other words, the disturbance indirectly affected the nest distribution 5 years later. Analyses of the nearest neighbor to each colony suggested that established colonies would obstruct newly recruited colonies around their nests. Construction may open up space for recruitment colonization by removing established colonies, and may also create suitable conditions by destruction of original vegetation, or returning vegetation to the early stages of plant community succession. As a result, the disturbance may facilitate the subsequent recruitment of new colonies and rejuvenate the population.