Foresters Use GPS to Save Ants' Nests from Thousands of Falling Trees

gps track ants nests photo

Photo via Flickr
Like a Needle in a . . .
Just how good has GPS technology gotten? Good enough that it can be used to pinpoint the exact location of a handful of tiny ants in a massive forest. And British conservationists are taking advantage of this technology to track down 69 ultra rare ant nests--amidst tens of thousands of trees that are about to be cut down. The peculiar and painstaking mission to save the rare ants nests has been brought about not by of the intrusion of loggers, but another equally painstaking conservationist undertaking: uprooting thousands of tons of invasive conifer trees to make room for the area's natural species.

Clearing Out the Conifer . . .
According to the BBC, "The Forestry Commission is removing 10,000 tonnes of conifer planted in the 20th Century to restore the area to its ancient roots as an oak wood." The conifer has crowded out the native trees, like the oak and birch. But it also came to play a more unexpected role--as home to the hairy northern wood ant.

. . . And Tracking Down the Ants
The red and black colored wood ant is the largest ant in Britain, and are also quire rare. Which is why the plan to remove the conifers was revised to allow foresters storm the woods for the elusive ants, armed with GPS. Once the nests are located, a few conifers will be left standing around them to be used by the ants as future building materials.

From the BBC:

Nick Brodin, Natural England's regional biodiversity officer, said: "Use of GPS technology has revolutionised nature conservation research and habitat management . . . Hairy wood ants are a very uncommon species in the north-east of England and it's great news that these amazing ant nest stacks in Holystone Wood will be safeguarded thanks to satellite technology.
And you thought GPS was only good for people who're too lazy to write down directions.

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