Research combats invasive ants on Indigenous lands in northern Australia

Helicopters are used by Ben Hoffmann and Dhimurru ranger staff to access remote infestations of yellow crazy ants. Credit: CSIRO Darwin
Helicopters are used by Ben Hoffmann and Dhimurru ranger staff to access remote infestations of yellow crazy ants. Credit: CSIRO Darwin

Invasive ants are among the greatest environmental, social and economic threats to Australia, potentially costing the nation more than $1 billion annually. However, knowledge of the basic biology of these pest species remains rudimentary, and many management operations have been unsuccessful.

CSIRO ecologist Dr Ben Hoffmann has been working on invasive ants on Indigenous lands, in collaboration with Indigenous ranger groups, for 13 years. His innovative research and science-based approach to management has resulted in substantially improved management protocols, leading to eradication of invasive ants from areas of high biodiversity and cultural values, including World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, the Tiwi Islands and northeast Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Ben’s research on ant biology and invasion ecology has been crucial to achieving effective control. It has also led to a better understanding of how species become invasive, the impacts of invasive ants on ecosystems, as well as ecosystem recovery following eradication.

The research and management protocols Ben has developed have been incorporated into invasive ant management plans and programs throughout the world. An African big-headed ant eradication conducted with the Malak-Malak Aboriginal rangers at Daly River also recently won a Northern Territory Landcare Award.

For more information: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Ben Hoffmann, Tel: +61 (8) 8944 8432, Ben.Hoffmann@csiro.au, www.csiro.au/people/Ben.Hoffmann.html

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