The effect of a soil-feeding termite, Cubitermes fungifaber (Isoptera: Termitidae) on soil properties: termites may be an important source of soil microhabitat heterogeneity in tropical forests uri icon

abstract

  • We measured the effect of a typical soil-feeding termite on soil quality using experimental mesocosms. We obtained soil from five different sites in the humid forest zone of southern Cameroon. The sites were along a disturbance gradient, from near primary, to highly degraded agricultural soil. We allowed colonies of Cubitermes fungifaber to work the soils for 13 days. We measured physical and chemical parameters in the worked soils that are known to be important in soil quality, and therefore to influence fertility. We found that C. fungifaber raised pH in soils with an initial low pH, increased organic carbon, water content and relative amount of kaolinite, and decreased the relative amount of quartz. The main effect of these termites is to raise local microsite soil quality, and these effects are greatest in the near primary and old secondary forests. Termites are, therefore, potentially important sources of heterogeneity in tropical forest soil systems.

publication date

  • 2001
  • 2001