Soil invertebrates such as ants are thought to be important manipulators of soils in temperate and tropical ecosystems. The fungus gardening ant, Trachymyrmex septentrionalis, is an important agent of biomantling, that is, of depositing soil excavated from below onto the surface, and has been suggested as an agent of bioturbation (moving soil below ground) as well. The amount of bioturbation by this ant was quantified by planting queenright colonies in sand columns consisting of 5 layers of different colored sand. The amount of each color of sand deposited on the surface was determined from April to November 2015. In November, colonies were excavated and the color and amount of sand deposited below ground (mostly as backfill in chambers) was determined. Extrapolated to one ha, T. septentrionalis deposited 800 kg of sand per annum on the surface, and an additional 200 kg (17% of the total excavated) below ground. On average, this mixes 1.3% of the sand from other layers within the top meter of soil per millennium, but this mixing is unlikely to be homogeneous, and probably occurs as "hotspots" in both horizontal and vertical space. Such mixing is discussed as a challenge to sediment dating by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL).
Copyright: 2016 Tschinkel, Seal. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date of publication
Tschinkel, Walter R. and Seal, Jon N., "Bioturbation by the fungus-gardening ant, Trachymyrmex septentrionalis" (2016). Biology Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper 17.