DOI: 10.1111/icad.12672 ISSN: 1752-458X

Non‐native ants drive dramatic declines in animal community diversity: A meta‐analysis

Maximillian P. T. G. Tercel, Jordan P. Cuff, William O. C. Symondson, Ian P. Vaughan
  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Non‐native ants can cause ecosystem‐wide ecological change, and these changes are generally assumed to be negative. Despite this, the evidence base has never been holistically synthesised to quantify whether and to what degree non‐native ants impact native species diversity.

In this study, we performed a meta‐analysis of the effects of ant invasion on animal communities. We extracted data from 46 published articles investigating abundance (156 effect sizes) and richness (53 effect sizes) responses of animal taxa to ant invasion in locations relatively unimpacted by other stressors (e.g. human disturbance, other non‐native species) to help isolate the effects of invasion.

Overall, local animal diversity declined severely, with species abundance and richness lower by 42.79% and 53.56%, respectively, in areas with non‐native ants compared with intact uninvaded sites. We then combined responses of individual animal taxa extracted from an article into a single response to represent the ‘community’ abundance (40 effect sizes) or richness (28 effect sizes) response to non‐native ants represented in each article. Local communities decreased substantially in total abundance (52.67%) and species richness (53.47%) in invaded sites.

These results highlight non‐native ants as the drivers, rather than passengers, of large net‐negative reductions to animal community diversity in relatively undisturbed systems around the world, approximately halving local species abundance and richness in invaded areas. Improved international prevention processes, early detection systems harnessing emerging technologies, and well‐designed control measures deployable by conservation practitioners are urgently needed if these effects are to be mitigated, prevented or reversed.

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