Variability in soils and vegetation associated with harvester ant (<i>Pogonomyrmex rugosus</i>) nests on a Chihuahuan Desert watershed

TitleVariability in soils and vegetation associated with harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex rugosus) nests on a Chihuahuan Desert watershed
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsWhitford WG, DiMarco R.
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Date Published1995
Keywordsannual plants, desert, Harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, soil nutrients, spatial variability

The effects of harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex rugosus) nests on the density and cover of spring annual plants and on soil characteristics were measured at three locations characterized by different soils and dominant vegetation on a desert watershed. There were few differences in vegetation and soils associated with harvester ant nests at locations at the base of the watershed where brief periods of flooding and sediment deposition occur at periodic intervals. At mid-slope locations, there were significant increases in total nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and cover (biomass) of four species of spring annuals at the edges of nest disks when compared with reference sites. The spring annuals that exhibited increased cover were species that increase biomass as a function of available nitrogen. At a clay-loam, Scleropogon-Hilaria, grassland site, there were significant reductions in the concentrations of Ca2+ and Mg2+, significant increases in nitrate and total nitrogen, but a significant increase in cover in only one species of annual plant. The data demonstrate that the effects of ants on soil properties and vegetation vary with site location and soil type.