The impact of termites on soil sheeting properties is better explained by environmental factors than by their feeding and building strategies - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles Geoderma Year : 2022

The impact of termites on soil sheeting properties is better explained by environmental factors than by their feeding and building strategies

Ali Mainga
  • Function : Author
Rashmi Shanbhag
  • Function : Author

Abstract

Termites are key soil bioturbators in tropical ecosystems. Apart from mound nests constructed by some advanced lineages, most of the species use their faeces, oral secretions, debris, or soil aggregates to protect themselves from predators and desiccation when they go out to forage. Although this soil ‘sheeting’ is considered to play a key role in soil functioning, the properties of this termite-made material has been poorly studied. The few available data showed that sheeting properties are highly variable with positive, neutral or negative impacts on soil C and clay content, and consequently on soil aggregate stability. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the factors controlling the physical (particle size fractions and structural stability) and chemical (pH, electrical conductivity and carbon content) properties of soil sheeting produced by termite species encompassing all feeding and building categories using a dataset representative of an important diversity of biotopes coming from 21 countries from all continents colonized by termites. We showed that sheeting properties were explained by the properties of their environment, and especially by those of the bulk soil (linear relationships), followed in a lesser extent by the mean annual precipitation and biotope. Classic hypotheses related to termite feeding and building strategies were not hold by our analysis. However, the distinction of termites into fungus-growing and non-fungus growing species was useful when differentiating the impact of termites on soil electrical conductivity, C content, and structural stability. The large variability observed suggests the need to redefine termite functional groups based on their impacts on soil properties using a trait-based approach from morphological, anatomical and/or physiological traits.

Dates and versions

hal-03540881 , version 1 (24-01-2022)

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Pascal Jouquet, Ajay Harit, Vincent Hervé, Hemanth Moger, Tiago Carrijo, et al.. The impact of termites on soil sheeting properties is better explained by environmental factors than by their feeding and building strategies. Geoderma, 2022, 412, pp.115706. ⟨10.1016/j.geoderma.2022.115706⟩. ⟨hal-03540881⟩
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