Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Restoring an Island Ecosystem

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Sustainability, Behavior

Ed Hessler 

This is a success story about the successful campaign to eradicate an invasive species, the yellow-crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), from the Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge which is included in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The ant is quite large and acquired the epithet "crazy" because when it is disturbed it moves erratically. The Wiki entry provides the details about this ant.

And Vanessa Romo of NPR provides the story.  She writes that "the nonnative invasive insect had been threatening ground-nesting seabirds on the atoll since at least 2010, nearly wiping out" one colony of seabirds "and wreaking havoc on other seabirds."

The birds nesting there are ground nesters and in their evolution never had to deal with ground pests. The ants, according to Romo's reporting "would swarm the birds and their ground nests spraying formic acid into the animals' eyes and beaks."

About the formic acid Monument Superintendent, Kate Tonilo told Romo, "'In many cases it blinded the birds. In chicks, [the acid] would cause beak malformations making it impossible for them to eat ... so they would just starve to death.'" There is so much to be learned about the natural world and as reported by Romo, Tonilo pointed out that "It is unclear what provoies the ants to spray their acid, adding that that aspect of their behavior has not been studied."

A Crazy Ant Strike Team was formed and in a survey in December 2017, "the yellow crazy ant was last spotted ... but it was too soon to tell if the ants had been fully extinguished because their colonies are underground."  The ants turned out to be choosy eaters of "bait concoctions that the ants would eat and take back to their colonies." And as you might expect some great noses were involved in finding colonies, "two dogs--Guinness and Solo."

By the way there is a travel restriction. "'If you to to Johnston, all of your clothes have to be brand new, off the shelf, never worn, and frozen for 48 hours before you can be brought to the island.'"

To give you an idea of requirements to serve as a volunteer for the Crazy Ant Strike Team here is one posting.

What good news!

No comments:

Post a Comment