Ant game of thrones: what we can learn from ants in artificial nest boxes in cities and forests
and how you can get involved!
a really nice house (for an ant colony)
Forest-dwelling ant species compete strongly for nest sites and frequently change their nest locations. But global climate change and the conversion of land from forested to urbanized habitat are warming the environment above and beyond what typical forest-dwelling ants would encounter. This warming gives a competitive advantage to more heat-loving species, which are now holding nest sites for far longer than they should. These changes are leading to losses in stability of ant communities.
By constructing artificial nest boxes (where we can easily observe which species are living in the nest sites), and photographing the boxes at regular intervals, we can figure out which species are winning the ant game of thrones over the nest boxes, and which species are losing the battle.
Ants perform a wide array of ecosystem services, from decomposition to seed dispersal. Heat-loving ant species perform some, but not all, of these ecosystem services. By measuring which ants succeed and which ants fail under the warmer conditions generated by global climate change and the conversion of forest to urbanized, human settlement areas, will allow us to predict which ecosystem services will be imperiled in the future.
But we need your help! We have artificial nest boxes distributed throughout forested and urbanized areas of Cleveland, Ohio, and would like to know which ants are moving into and out of the nest boxes. You don't have to be an ant expert to help - all you need is access to a camera to photograph the next box - we'll take care of the rest!
Check out our iNaturalist project page with additional descriptions of how and where you can get involved with this project.