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The influence of ants on soil and water losses from an orange orchard in eastern Spain


, : The influence of ants on soil and water losses from an orange orchard in eastern Spain. Journal of Applied Entomology 132(4): 306-314

Herbicide applications have greatly reduced plant cover, and increased soil erosion on a new orange orchard planted on valley slopes in eastern Spain. This has increased the importance of soil fauna, such as ants, in regulating soil erosion processes. Ants increase water infiltration rates by forming soil macropores during nest construction, but new soil brought to the surface by ant activity could increase the sediments available for erosion. Simulated rainfall experiments were conducted on 20 paired plots (20 with ant activity and 20 controls) to study the impact of ants on surface water flow and sediment movement in an intensively managed orange orchard near Valencia, Spain. Simulated rainfall was applied to each plot at a rate of 55 mm/h on a 0.25 m(2) area for 1 h. We found a reduction of soil bulk density, an increase in soil organic matter, and an increase in macropore flow in ant-affected soils, as compared to soil without ant activity. These ant-induced soil changes increased water infiltration rates and runoff discharge. However, the fresh, unconsolidated soil brought to the surface during nest construction resulted in greater soil loss on two plots than their ant-free controls. Ants can be an important factor in soil erosion processes when surface vegetation is removed by intensive herbicide use.

US$19.90

DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0418.2008.01267.x


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