Despite their ecological dominance, social Hymenopterans (ants, bees and wasps) are vulnerable to environmental perturbations, because their effective population sizes are determined by reproducing queens and males, not workers. Dispersal in ants is also linked to the social structure of the species, so that while females in monogynous species are typically strong dispersers and start new colonies independently, females in polygynous species are either less capable or less willing to disperse long distances and starting new colonies by themselves. This leads to a decreased ability to colonize new populations in polygynous species, particularly when the suitable habitat becomes increasingly fragmented. Since ants are an ecologically dominant group, small effective population sizes and restricted dispersal are direct conservation concerns that potentially have large effects on whole ecosystems.
Sanja Hakala (Universität Freiburg, Switzerland)
Janine Herrera Rangel & Vanessa Munoz Valencia (Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia)
Cristina Lorenzi (University Paris XIII)
Pekka Punttila (Finnish Environment Institute SYKE)
Helena Johansson, Jenni Leppänen, Jana Wolf (University of Helsinki)