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Influence of soil pedological properties on termite mound stability

Jouquet, P and Guilleux, N and Caner, L and Chintakunta, S and Ameline, M and Shanbhag, RR (2016) Influence of soil pedological properties on termite mound stability. In: GEODERMA, 262 . pp. 45-51.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2015.08.020


This study investigated the influence of soil properties on the density and shape of epigeous fungus-growing termite nests in a dry deciduous forest in Karnataka, India. In this environment, Odontotermes obesus produces cathedral shaped mounds. Their density, shape (height and volume) and soil physicochemical properties were analyzed in ferralsol and vertisol environments. No significant difference was observed in O. obesus mound density (n = 2.7 mound ha(-1) on average in the vertisol and ferralsol areas). This study also showed that O. obesus has a limited effect on soil physical properties. No differences in soil particle size, pH, or the C:N ratio and base saturation were measured whereas the C and N contents were reduced and CEC was higher in termite nest soils in both environments. Clay mineralogical composition was also measured, and showed the presence of higher amounts of smectite clays in termite nest soils, which thus explained the increasing CEC despite the reduced C and N content. However, the main difference was the shape of the termite mounds. The degradation of the nests created a hillock of eroded soil at the base of termite mounds in the vertisol while only a thin layer of eroded soil was observed in the ferralsol. The increased degradation of termite mounds in the vertisol is explained by the presence of smectites (2:1 swelling clays), which confer macroscopic swelling and shrinking characteristics to the soil. Soil shrinkage during the dry season leads to the formation of deep cracks in the termite mounds that allow rain to rapidly penetrate inside the mound wall and then breakdown unstable aggregates. In conclusion, it appears that despite a similar abundance, termite mound properties depend to a large extent on the soil properties of their environments. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: GEODERMA
Additional Information: Copy right for this article belongs to the ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV, PO BOX 211, 1000 AE AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
Keywords: Ferralsol; Vertisol; Odontotermes obesus; India; Aggregate; Termite mound shape; Clay mineralogical properties
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Civil Engineering
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2015 09:07
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2015 09:07
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/52706

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