The effects of global climate change on the species of the Formica rufa group in the mountains of Central-Europe
István Elek Maák, Ágnes Fürjes-Mikó , Anna Tenyér , Anna Ágnes Somogyi , Dianne Joy Aguilon , Orsolya Juhász , István Elek Maák
Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland; Department of Forest Protection, NARIC Forest Research Institute, Mátrafüred, Hungary ; Department of Ecology, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary ; Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary ; Doctoral School of Environmental Sciences, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary ; Doctoral School in Biology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, University of Szeged, Hungary ; Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Global climate change and its consequences are considered to be one of the major problem humanity have to face in the 21st century. Severe storms, frequent temperature changes, and pest outbreaks are just some of the known consequences of climate change that can pose a severe threat to European coniferous forests. Alongside with this in the last decade, anthropogenic activities like unscheduled salvage cuttings were introduced to save the undamaged timber from bark beetle gradation. This can be harmful not only to the forest ecosystems but also to forest specialists like red wood ants (RWA). In many habitats, RWA are already on the edge of their existence. In Central Europe, studies are still lacking and information on the exact ecological preferences and status of this species group are scarce. Thus, for effective conservation management, we have to find RWA’s ecological preferences, particularly in suboptimal conditions. In our study, we had a unique opportunity to compare different RWA habitat plots of 150 ×150 meters in a short range in Mátra Mountains, Hungary. Plots of polydomous systems were located in a recently clear-cut forest area, in an oak forest, and in a mixed coniferous plantation. Our aim was to define how disturbances affect RWA nest numbers, mound volumes, colony connections and searching routes. Based on our findings, highest nest number and shortest searching routes were obtained in recently clear-cut areas, mainly because of the high number of connections found between many small nests. On the other hand, RWA species started to make use of different alternatives in the lack of coniferous species for tended aphids and nest material. Furthermore, smallest nest volumes were found in plots without conifers. Our research not only highlights the consequences of the severe loss of coniferous forests in Central Europe to RWA but also shows that these species are ecologically flexible and can survive also under extreme conditions.