The effects of ants on pest control: a meta-analysis
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AuthorAnjos, Diego V; Tena, Alejandro; Barbosa, Arleu; Carvalho, Raquel L; Torezan-Silingardi, Helena; Del-Claro, Kleber; Perfecto, Ivette
Cita bibliográficaAnjos, D. V., Tena, A., Viana-Junior, A. B., Carvalho, R. L., Torezan-Silingardi, H., Del-Claro, K. et al. (2022). The effects of ants on pest control: a meta-analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 289(1981), 20221316.
Environmental impacts of conventional agriculture have generated interest in sustainable agriculture. Biological pest control is a fundamental tool, and ants are key players providing ecological services, as well as some disservices. We have used a meta-analytical approach to investigate the contribution of ants to biological control, considering their effects on pest and natural enemy abundance, plant damage and crop yield. We also evaluated whether the effects of ants are modulated by traits of ants, pests and other natural enemies, as well as by field size, crop system and experiment duration. Overall (considering all meta-analyses), from 52 studies on 17 different crops, we found that ants decrease the abundance of non-honeydew- producing pests, decrease plant damage and increase crop yield (services). In addition, ants decrease the abundance of natural enemies, mainly the generalist ones, and increase honeydew-producing pest abundance (disservices). We show that the pest control and plant protection provided by ants are boosted in shaded crops compared to monocultures. Furthermore, ants increase crop yield in shaded crops, and this effect increases with time. Finally, we bring new insights such as the importance of shaded crops to ant services, providing a good tool for farmers and stakeholders considering sustainable farming practices.