Physicochemical and morphological properties of termite (Macrotermes bellicosus) mounds and surrounding pedons on a toposequence of an inland valley in the southern Guinea savanna zone of Nigeria uri icon

abstract

  • Termites play a significant role in soil-forming processes of the tropics. The influence of termites on pedogenesis as affected by the toposequence, however, has rarely been explored. We investigated the soil physicochemical and morphological characteristics of epigeal mounds constructed by Macrotermes bellicosus (Smethman) compared with those of surrounding pedons along a toposequence (bottom, fringe and upland sites) of an inland valley in central Nigeria. The physicochemical and morphological properties of the mound soils varied according to structural units but were generally different from those of the adjacent pedons. The differences included finer texture, higher electrical conductivity, total N, exchangeable bases (Ca, Mg and K) and effective cation exchange capacity and lower C/N ratio and exchange acidity in the mound than the pedon at each toposequence position. This tendency to modify the soil properties was more prominent in the nest body where the termites actually live, that is, in the hives, royal cell and base-plate, than in the soils below the nest and the other mound parts, that is, the external wall, internal wall and pillars. We found this trend to a greater or lesser degree at all toposequence positions. Our findings suggest that: (1) M. bellicosus can manipulate the mound soils according to functional applications of structure units or environmental requirements for its livelihood, regardless of local soils; (2) M. bellicosus makes ecological patches (hot spots) at all toposequence positions in the same measure; (3) the influence of M. bellicosus on the pedogenesis is reduced in the lowlands compared with the uplands because the number and volume of the mounds were substantially lower in the bottom and fringe sites compared with the upland site.
  • Termites play a significant role in soil-forming processes of the tropics. The influence of termites on pedogenesis as affected by the toposequence, however, has rarely been explored. We investigated the soil physicochemical and morphological characteristics of epigeal mounds constructed by Macrotermes bellicosus (Smethman) compared with those of surrounding pedons along a toposequence (bottom, fringe and upland sites) of an inland valley in central Nigeria. The physicochemical and morphological properties of the mound soils varied according to structural units but were generally different from those of the adjacent pedons. The differences included finer texture, higher electrical conductivity, total N, exchangeable bases (Ca, Mg and K) and effective cation exchange capacity and lower C/N ratio and exchange acidity in the mound than the pedon at each toposequence position. This tendency to modify the soil properties was more prominent in the nest body where the termites actually live, that is, in the hives, royal cell and base-plate, than in the soils below the nest and the other mound parts, that is, the external wall, internal wall and pillars. We found this trend to a greater or lesser degree at all toposequence positions. Our findings suggest that: (1) M. bellicosus can manipulate the mound soils according to functional applications of structure units or environmental requirements for its livelihood, regardless of local soils; (2) M. bellicosus makes ecological patches (hot spots) at all toposequence positions in the same measure; (3) the influence of M. bellicosus on the pedogenesis is reduced in the lowlands compared with the uplands because the number and volume of the mounds were substantially lower in the bottom and fringe sites compared with the upland site.

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009
  • 2009