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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 46 No. 4, p. 785-788
    Received: June 18, 1981
    Accepted: Feb 18, 1982

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The Role of the Western Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis) in Soil Formation1

  1. Rolfe D. Mandel and
  2. Curtis J. Sorenson2



The effects of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis) on the physical and chemical properties of soils were determined for 20 ant mounds in the semiarid subalpine region of south-central Colorado. Comparisons of soil materials in mounds of active colonies with surrounding unaffected soils showed significant differences in particlesize distribution and concentrations of CaCO3, exchangeable K, Na, Mg, and total N. The activity of ants in the study area appears to affect less ground surface area than in more humid regions (1 to 10% of respective land areas by regional comparison). The ants also tend to rearrange particles preferentially in the sand fraction instead of in the finer fractions as recorded for more humid regions. However, their role in nutrient enrichment of mound soils is similar to that of different ant species in other regions. The soil alterations induced by P. occidentialis are favorable for plant growth, and the ant mounds may aid revegetation in disturbed areas.

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