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Yann Clough. Photo.

Yann Clough


Yann Clough. Photo.

Interaction complexity matters: disentangling services and disservices of ant communities driving yield in tropical agroecosystems.


  • Arno Wielgoss
  • Teja Tscharntke
  • Alfianus Rumede
  • Brigitte Fiala
  • Hannes Seidel
  • Saleh Shahabuddin
  • Yann Clough

Summary, in English

Owing to complex direct and indirect effects, impacts of higher trophic levels on plants is poorly understood. In tropical agroecosystems, ants interact with crop mutualists and antagonists, but little is known about how this integrates into the final ecosystem service, crop yield. We combined ant exclusion and introduction of invasive and native-dominant species in cacao agroecosystems to test whether (i) ant exclusion reduces yield, (ii) dominant species maximize certain intermediate ecosystem services (e.g. control of specific pests) rather than yield, which depends on several, cascading intermediate services and (iii) even, species-rich ant communities result in highest yields. Ants provided services, including reduced leaf herbivory and fruit pest damage and indirect pollination facilitation, but also disservices, such as increased mealybug density, phytopathogen dissemination and indirect pest damage enhancement. Yields were highest with unmanipulated, species-rich, even communities, whereas ant exclusion decreased yield by 27%. Introduction of an invasive-dominant ant decreased species density and evenness and resulted in 34% lower yields, whereas introduction of a non-invasive-dominant species resulted in similar species density and yields as in the unmanipulated control. Species traits and ant community structure affect services and disservices for agriculture in surprisingly complex ways, with species-rich and even communities promoting highest yield.


  • Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC)
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate

Publishing year





Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences





Document type

Journal article


Royal Society Publishing


  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences




  • ISSN: 1471-2954