There are at least 20,000 billion ants on Earthaccording to a new study that even says that that figure probably underestimates the total population of these insectsan essential part of ecosystems around the world.
The study was revealed in the renowned publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, in English), in which it was specified that its objectives were aligned to determine the world population of ants, something important “to measure the consequences of changes to their habitat, including those caused by climate change.
To arrive at the startling number, the researchers analyzed 465 studies that measured the number of ants, locally, on the ground, in which two standardized techniques were used: placing traps that captured passing ants for a certain period of time, or analyzing the number of ants in a delimited portion of leaves on the ground.
While surveys have been conducted on every continent, some relevant regions had little or no dataincluding Central Africa and Asia.
“That’s why the true number of ants globally is likely to be considerably higher than estimated. It is of the utmost importance that we fill in these remaining gaps to achieve a complete picture of insect diversity.”
On the other hand, it was found that there are more than 15,700 species and subspecies of ants with names that are found all over the planet, and probably a number equal to not yet discovered. Likewise, almost two-thirds of them are found in just two types of ecosystems: tropical forests and savannas.
According to the estimated number of ants, their total biomass on Earth is thought to be 12 million tonnes, more than that of wild birds and mammals combined, and 20% that of humans.
In the future, the researchers plan to study the environmental factors that influence the population density of these tiny creatures.
The importance of ants
Mark Wongan ecologist at the University of Western Australia’s School of Biological Sciences and a member of the study, explained that the ants they are essential to maintain “the delicate balance of our ecosystem”.
“They are preyed upon by larger animals, predators of many others, ground-ravers and scavengers, to name but a few of their accolades. This sheer number of ants on Earth greatly underlines their ecological value.”as ants can exceed their weight by providing key ecological functionsWong remarked.
On the other hand, Wong states that it is of “great importance” to carry out surveys related to ant populations and even “accelerate processes” so that species and subspecies of these insects do not “extinct” due to causes related to global warming.
“Things like counting ants or taking pictures of the insects you find in your backyard and observing the interesting things plants and animals do can be very helpful in the future“, suggested the ecologist.