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Linking Termite Feeding Preferences and Soil Physical Functioning in Southern-Indian Woodlands

Cheik, Sougueh and Shanbhag, Rashmi Ramesh and Harit, Ajay and Bottinelli, Nicolas and Sukumar, Raman and Jouquet, Pascal (2019) Linking Termite Feeding Preferences and Soil Physical Functioning in Southern-Indian Woodlands. In: INSECTS, 10 (1).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/insects10010004


Termites are undoubtedly amongst the most important soil macroinvertebrate decomposers in semi-arid environments in India. However, in this specific type of environment, the influence of termite foraging activity on soil functioning remains unexplored. Therefore, this study examines the link between the quality of litter and the functional impact of termite feeding preferences on soil properties and soil hydraulic conductivity in a deciduous forest in southern India. Different organic resources (elephant dung: ``ED'', elephant grass: ``EG'', acacia leaves: ``AL'' and layers of cardboard: ``CB'') were applied on repacked soil cores. ED appeared to be the most attractive resource to Odontotermes obesus, leading to a larger amount of soil sheeting (i.e., the soil used by termites for covering the litter they consume), more numerous and larger holes in the ground and a lower soil bulk density. As a consequence, ED increased the soil hydraulic conductivity (4-fold) compared with the control soil. Thus, this study highlights that the more O. obesus prefers a substrate, the more this species impacts soil dynamics and water infiltration in the soil. This study also shows that ED can be used as an efficient substrate for accelerating the infiltration of water in southern-Indian soils, mainly through the production of galleries that are open on the soil surface, offering new perspectives on termite management in this environment.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: INSECTS
Publisher: MDPI
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to MDPI
Keywords: Odontotermes obesus; sheeting; termite foraging activity; litter quality; organic resource consumption; soil water dynamic
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Division of Mechanical Sciences > Civil Engineering
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2019 05:09
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2019 05:09
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/61778

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