The widespread collapse of an invasive species: Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) in New Zealand

Meghan Cooling, Stephen Hartley, Dalice A. Sim, Philip J. Lester

Abstract

Synergies between invasive species and climate change are widely considered to be a major biodiversity threat. However, invasive species are also hypothesized to be susceptible to population collapse, as we demonstrate for a globally important invasive species in New Zealand. We observed Argentine ant populations to have collapsed in 40 per cent of surveyed sites. Populations had a mean survival time of 14.1 years (95% CI = 12.9–15.3 years). Resident ant communities had recovered or partly recovered after their collapse. Our models suggest that climate change will delay colony collapse, as increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall significantly increased their longevity, but only by a few years. Economic and environmental costs of invasive species may be small if populations collapse on their own accord.

  • Received October 20, 2011.
  • Accepted November 9, 2011.
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