Effects of termite foraging activity on topsoil physical properties and water infiltration in Vertisol - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles Applied Soil Ecology Year : 2019

Effects of termite foraging activity on topsoil physical properties and water infiltration in Vertisol

Abstract

In the tropics, termites are key litter decomposers and soil bioturbators. Termite foraging activity involves the production of sheetings and galleries that influence the physical, chemical and hydraulic properties of soils. The functional impacts of these biogenic structures and biopores have been acknowledged for a long time in soils dominated by 1:1 minerals. Less is known, however, on their functional impacts in soils dominated by 2:1 minerals, such as vertisol which represent 22% of the land surface in India. Therefore, an experiment was carried out in a vertisol in southern India where elephant (Elephas maximus) dung pats (ED) and Lantana camara twigs (LT) were applied on the ground and protected (+) or not (−) from termite activity. Termite activity was only measured below ED−, showing a clear preference for organic matter derived from elephant dung. Soil sheetings had similar properties to the surrounding topsoil, with the exception of their C content that was reduced. This result raised the question of the origin of the soil used by termites for covering ED. ED− was also associated with the presence of effective macropores up to 5 cm depth and a significant increase in water hydraulic conductivity (12-fold). However, the utilization of the coefficient of linear extensibility showed that these galleries were unstable and most likely short-lived. In conclusion, this study confirmed that the structure of soils dominated by 2:1 minerals is mainly controlled by physical processes (i.e., the shrinking and swelling of soils). This study also stresses the need to better understand the dynamic of termite galleries in soil and to quantify the origin and fate of organic matter in soil sheetings.
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Dates and versions

hal-01992043 , version 1 (28-01-2019)

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Sougueh Cheik, Nicolas Bottinelli, Benoit Soudan, Ajay Harit, Ekta Chaudhary, et al.. Effects of termite foraging activity on topsoil physical properties and water infiltration in Vertisol. Applied Soil Ecology, 2019, 133, pp.132-137. ⟨10.1016/j.apsoil.2018.10.001⟩. ⟨hal-01992043⟩
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