Altered habitats have been suggested to facilitate red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) colonization and dispersal, possibly compounding effects of habitat alteration on native wildlife. In this study, we compared colonization intensity of wood cover boards by S. invicta among four forest management treatments in South Carolina, USA: an unharvested control (>30 years old); a partially thinned stand; a clearcut with coarse woody debris retained; and a clearcut with coarse woody debris removed. Additionally, we compared dehydration rates and survival of recently metamorphosed salamanders (marbled salamanders, Ambystoma opacum, and mole salamanders, A. talpoideum) among treatments. We found that the number of wood cover boards colonized by S. invicta differed significantly among treatments, being lowest in the unharvested forest treatments and increasing with the degree of habitat alteration. Salamanders that were maintained in experimental field enclosures to study water loss were unexpectedly subjected to high levels of S. invicta predation that differed among forest treatments. All known predation by S. invicta was restricted to salamanders in clearcuts. The amount of vegetative ground cover was inversely related to the likelihood of S. invicta predation of salamanders. Our results show that S. invicta abundance increases with habitat disturbance and that this increased abundance has negative consequences for amphibians that remain in altered habitats. Our findings also suggest that the presence of invasive S. invicta may compromise the utility of cover boards and other techniques commonly used in herpetological studies in the Southeast. ?? 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Additional publication details
Habitat alteration increases invasive fire ant abundance to the detriment of amphibians and reptiles