We studied the impact of wood ants on the structure and functioning of the invertebrate food web of boreal forest during a three-year period. Special emphasis was put on the detritus-based food web. The density of wood ants was reduced > 90% by eliminating whole wood ant colonies from five areas in Central Finland, and leaving five areas as controls. We monitored the growth of spruce, pine and birch seedlings planted on homogenised plots, and development of the invertebrate community in soil and vegetation. The ant removal had little effects on the structure of the invertebrate food web. However, biomasses of predators caught in pitfall traps were 60% smaller under high ant density than under low ant density. Also, at the end of the experiment the biomass of the lumbricid earthworm Dendrobaena octaedra was reduced by 54% in the homogenised plots without ant nests. Removal of wood ants had no influence on soil microbial biomass, concentration of soil mineral nitrogen, plant N uptake, or plant growth.
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