Commentary - Waste that keeps on giving: Leaf-cutting ants' refuse dumps may indirectly benefit plant pollination

Date

2019

Authors

Ng, Katherina

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Volume Title

Publisher

Wiley

Abstract

Leaf-cutting ants have a fascinating mutualistic relationship with fungus. They feed their larvae with fungus, which they actively cultivate on collected plant material. The ants are also meticulous in managing waste from their ‘fungus garden’ – unused plant material is regularly disposed outside or in dedicated waste chambers. Would this naturally nutrient-rich garden refuse benefit adjacent flowering plants, with flow-on effects on pollination function? Anah ı Fernandez and her colleagues in Inibioma–Conicet set out to answer this question by assessing differences in floral traits of the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) growing in refuse dump soil of leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex lobicornis) versus adjacent soils in a glasshouse experiment (Fernandez et al. 2019). ‘Refuse dump soils are generally beneficial for plant production due to higher organic material, nutrients, higher water holding capacity and microbial activity in refuse dump soils than adjacent soils, but our study focuses on whether there are effects on floral traits, such as larger flower sizes or certain flower shapes, that might visually attract more pollinators’, says Anahi.

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Citation

Source

Austral Ecology

Type

Journal article

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Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights

DOI

10.1111/aec.12703

Restricted until

2037-12-31