Changes in Soil Properties by Harvester Ant's Activity (Messor spp.) in Roodshoor Steppe Rangeland of Saveh, Iran

Document Type: Research and Full Length Article

Authors

1 Msc. of Rangeland Management, Islamic Azad University, Nour Branch, Mazandaran, Iran

2 Faculty Member, Department of Rangeland Management, Islamic Azad University, Nour Branch,

3 Research Associate, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History, New York

Abstract

One of the most important micro engineers of the terrestrial ecosystems, especially in the arid areas is the harvester ants due to their activity in the soil through nest building; they can make major changes while influencing the surface and subsurface in the rangeland soil. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of harvester ants (Messor spp.) on some soil properties in Roodshoor Steppe rangeland in Saveh, Iran. Soil samples in four depths (0-10, 10-20, 20-30, and 30-40 cm) were taken in three treatments of active and non-active nests and control area. Soil infiltration test was carried out over ants' nest and control site in dry and wet seasons by double rings method. The results showed that the Messor spp. soils had lower pH and higher concentration of organic matter, total carbon, N, P, K, Mg+2, Ca+2, Ec and sand percent in comparison with the control site. The soil infiltration rate regarding the nests was significantly higher than the control area in both dry and wet seasons. In the same habitat, nutrient concentrations did not change along the vertical gradient in contrast to control plots where soil nutrients decreased with depth. This showed homogeneity of different soil layers by ants. On the other hand, investigating the chemical and physical properties of soil did not show a significant difference between the dead nests and the control area. This can be the expression of effects created as the result of the presence of ants in modifying soil in the active nests. These effects disappeared with the passage of time after they left their nests. Therefore, the role of the ants in changing soil properties should be considered, especially in the arid and semi-arid area in which the soil is poor. The presence of ant colonies and their activity in this climate can improve soil conditions and increase soil fertility in most parts of the ground.

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