Cricket calling communities as an indicator of the invasive ant Wasmannia auropunctata in an insular biodiversity hotspot.
Invasive species are a major concern for the maintenance of ecosystem services and biodiversity but are difficult to mitigate. Upstream solutions to prevent their impact, including their detection, are needed. Wasmannia auropunctata, an invasive ant living in vagile supercolonies, is especially hard to track and is a major threat for tropical ecosystems and local animal communities. As part of such tropical communities, crickets are sensitive to ecological conditions, easy to collect, detectable and identifiable through their species-specific calls. Here, we evaluated the use of an acoustic community of crickets as an indicator of the presence of W. auropunctata in New Caledonia. We evaluated the dominance of the crickets in the soundscape, describe the cricket community structure and diversity along a shrubland to forest gradient, characterize these cricket communities structure and diversity in the light of ongoing invasion by W. auropunctata, and identify cricket species' indicators of the invasion. Acoustic recordings collected on 24 sites were described using human-listening and spectrographic visualization. The results demonstrated a clear dominance of the cricket group in the New Caledonian nocturnal soundscapes. Each habitat harbored a specific acoustic cricket community related to specific environmental attributes including vegetation height, daily variation of humidity and temperature. The presence of W. auropunctata was significantly associated with a lower cricket acoustic activity and species richness at night. Of the 19 species detected, four nocturnal species were identified as indicator of non-invaded forests and preforests. This work supports the use of acoustic as an alternative method to detect invasion.