What do ants do for the environment?

Topics Discussed

Ants help to keep the environment clean
A study conducted by ScienceDaily highlighted the important role that ants play in helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem. “The movement, consumption and recycling of dead organic material in ecosystems is important because it facilitates nutrient redistribution and decomposition.”

Ants benefit the soil
Ant-formed nests in the soil help to increase soil aeration. Soil aeration is the air supply (underground), i.e. the movement of O2 and CO2 between the earth and the atmosphere. The nests formed by ants loosen the soil, allowing greater soil aeration. This also helps with soil hydrology (i.e. infiltration, redistribution, drainage, storage, and evaporation).

Ants are food for other insects and animals
As we know from the food chain, ants themselves are prey for both invertebrates and vertebrates (their eggs too). Bears, for example, love to eat carpenter ants, ant larvae and pupae.

ant head

Could the world survive without ants?
What would happen if they were to ‘go extinct’?

There are tons of reasons why the environment/planet needs ants in order to function.

Some of these include:

  1. There would be an upsurge in roach, termite, and pest populations globally (since ants are their main predators).
  2. Another upsurge that would occur would be the amount of decayed bodies of dead animals and insects as a result of ants not feeding on them.
  3. Organisms that normally feed on ants to survive may die of starvation (anteaters being the main example, spiders and some birds would also suffer).
  4. The cleanliness of the soil/environment would decline. This is because ants help to regulate and fertilise soil. As outlined in the previous section, the nests formed by ants loosen the soil, allowing greater soil aeration, i.e. the movement of O2 and CO2 between the earth and the atmosphere.

It goes without saying that we should avoid “squishing ants” at all costs, and start paying more respect to the wonderful role that they play in the environment.

How many ants are left in the world and are ants already going extinct?

The global population of ants is ‘unimaginable.’ That was according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Hong Kong (as well as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).

Scientists concluded that a broad estimation of 20,000 trillion ants is the approximate global population figure. For each person there are around 2.5 million ants!

Many entomologists are concerned about the potential mass extinction of many insects, including ants. This is due to the decline in global insect populations observed by some scientists as a result of climate-change, pesticides, and ecosystem destruction.

This topic should be interpreted correctly and is still debated in the science community, as discussed here.

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