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Termites are undoubtedly key soil organisms in tropical and subtropical soils. They are soil engineers in influencing the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils and, consequently, water dynamics in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. To appreciate the effect of termites on soil, there is a need for a thorough understanding of the ecological needs and building strategies of termites and the mechanisms regulating termite diversity at local and regional scales. Termite impacts on soil properties and water dynamics can be differentiated at four different scales: (i) at the landscape scale, where termites act as heterogeneity drivers; (ii) at the soil profile scale, where termites act as soil bioturbators; (iii) at the aggregate scale, where they act as aggregate reorganizers; (iv) and last, at the clay mineral scale, where they can act as weathering agents. Last, we discuss recent literature on termite engineering published in the last 10 years in the major journals of soil science and suggest new research topics that could contribute to improved knowledge of the impact of termites on soil properties and water dynamics.
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Termites: The Neglected Soil Engineers of Tropical Soils
Pasc a l Jouque t ,
Nicolas Bottinelli,
Rashmi R. Shanbhag,
Thomas Bourguignon,
Saran Traoré,
and Shahid Abbas Abbasi
Abstract: Termites are undoubtedly key soil organisms in tropical and
subtropical soils. They aresoil engineers in influencing the physical, chem-
ical, and biological properties of soils and, consequently, water dynamics
in tropicaland subtropical ecosystems. To appreciate the effect of termites
on soil, there is a need for a thorough understanding of the ecological needs
and building strategies of termites and the mechanisms regulating termite
diversity at local and regional scales. Termite impacts on soil properties
and water dynamics can be differentiated at four different scales: (i) at the
landscape scale, where termites act as heterogeneity drivers; (ii) at the soil
profile scale, where termites act as soil bioturbators; (iii) at the aggregate
scale, where they act as aggregate reorganizers; (iv) and last, at the clay
mineral scale, where they can act as weathering agents. Last, we discuss
recent literature on termite engineering published in the last 10 years in
the major journals of soil science and suggest new research topics that
could contribute to improved knowledge of the impact of termites on soil
properties and water dynamics.
Key Words: Termites, soil engineers, spatial and temporal scales,
water dynamics
(Soil Sci 2016;181: 157165)
In the tropics, arthropods, particularly insects, make up the ma-
jority of known biodiversity. In these environments, termites
(Isoptera) are arguably among the most dominant and important
soil organisms (Black and Okwakol, 1997). Subjective assess-
ments of the importance of termites, based on observations of
their very high population densities, are now supported by a num-
ber of thorough studies that suggest that they may represent 40%
to 65% of the overall soil macrofaunal biomass in some biotopes,
with values comparable to the biomass of ungulate and megaher-
bivores (Loveridge and Moe, 2004). Studies in Africa, and to a
lesser extent in Australia, Southeast Asia, and South America,
focusing on savannah, bushlands, and rain forests suggest that
termites are involved in many essential ecological processes. They
play an important role in the decomposition of litter on the ground,
the regulation of soil structure, soil organic matter (SOM) and
nutrient cycling, water dynamics, soil erosion, plant growth, and
overall biodiversity (see Holt and Lepage, 2000; Jouquet et al.,
2011; Bottinelli et al., 2015, for reviews). Thus, because of their
abundance and impact on a large number of ecosystem functions,
the role of termites in most tropical and subtropical ecosystems
is considered to be similar or even more important than that of
earthworms. For the same reason, they are called keystone spe-
ciesor soil engineers(Black and Okwakol, 1997; Jouquet
et al., 2006). However, in contrast to the large body of knowledge
that has been acquired on the impact of earthworms on soil porosity
and water dynamics in temperate ecosystems (i.e., Bottinelli et al.,
2015; Capowiez et al., 2014; Lévêque et al., 2015; Pagenkemper
et al., 2015), there is a paucity of information on the influence of
termites in most tropical ecosystems and, in most cases, any com-
parison between earthworms and termites remains speculative.
The aims of this review are to (i) discuss the major impacts
of termites on soil structure and water dynamics in tropical soils
and (ii) suggest new research topics that could help reduce the
gap between our knowledge on earthworm bioturbation and that
of termites.
Termite ecology and soil functioning are two closely related
concepts. Termites use soil from various soil depths or specifically
select soil particles of small sizes for the construction of their
aboveground and belowground nests (Jouquet et al., 2011). They
also build galleries for foragingbelowground and translocate large
quantities of soil on the ground for harvesting litter (leaves, wood,
and herbivore dung), so-called termite sheetings. In doing so, they
substantially modify the physical, chemical, and biological prop-
erties of the soils (Holt and Lepage, 2000; Jouquet et al., 2011,
2015; Bottinelli et al., 2015). Although understanding how ter-
mites act as soil bioturbators seems to be a simple question, it is
far from being trivial. Earthworms modify soil properties because
they partially or exclusively feed on soil. This feeding strategy
might in itself justify the fact that they live in soil and conse-
quently have a significant impact onits propertieswhen ingesting
and egesting it (the formation of casts) and moving in it (the for-
mation of galleries). This, however, is not the case for termites
that feed on aboveground litter, with the exception of soil feeding
termite species. From an ecological point of view, the transloca-
tion of soil and the formation of galleries by termites can be seen
as a huge investment in terms of energy. In this context, why
should termites spend so much energy living belowground and
modifying the physical and chemical properties of soils? It seems
that termites are weak and relatively fragile invertebrates and use
soil bioturbation as a strategy for protecting themselves against
vertebrate and invertebrate predators and sunlight as well as to
control their environment (Korb and Linsenmair, 1998, 2000).
This close dependence between termite fitness and soil properties
is stressed by the extended phenotype engineeringconcept
(Jones et al., 1994) that states that termites are intended engi-
neers(in contrast to accidental engineers) that modify the soil
properties with purposes according to their ecological needs
(Turner, 2004; Jouquet et al., 2006). For example, several studies
showed that termites modify their long-lasting and robust de-
signed structures more than short-lived and less important ones
(Jouquet et al., 2005a; Abe and Wakatsuki, 2010). This has direct
Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences (UMR 242 iEES Paris), Insti-
tute of Research forDevelopment, Bondy, France.E-mail:
Indo-French Cell for Water Science, Civil Engineering Department, Indian In-
stitute of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South
Wales, Australia.
UFR/ST, Université Polytechnique de Bobo, Burkina Faso.
Centre for Pollution Control and Environmental Engineering, Pondicherry
University, Puducherry, India.
Address for correspondence: Dr. Pascal Jouquet, Institute of Ecology and Envi-
ronmental Sciences (UMR 242 iEES Paris), Institute of Research for Develop-
ment, 32 av. H. Varagnat, 93143 Bondy, France.
Financial Disclosures/Conflicts of Interest: This project was supported by the
French National Program EC2CO-Biohefect MACROFLUX.T. Bourguignon
was supported by a Sydney Postdoctoral fellowship.
Received May 9, 2015.
Accepted for publication July 21, 2015.
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
ISSN: 0038-075X
DOI: 10.1097/SS.0000000000000119
Soil Science Volume 181, Number 3/4, March/April 2016 157
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
positive impacts in terms of resistance and maintenance of humid-
ity and temperature and indirect positive impact by increasing the
amount of food available on some occasions (Jouquet et al., 2006).
Furthermore, the impact of termites on soil functioning is also
dependant on their construction strategies. Termites are highly euso-
cial with a clear hierarchy and sharp division of labor across the
hierarchy. They live in colonies with either single nests or several
interconnected nests. The concentration of termite activity into
one single location increases heterogeneity in the landscape, with
termite nests acting as resource or activity hotspots. They become
patches or islandsin the landscapes where different rates and/or
nature of ecological processes occur than in the bulk soil (Jouquet
et al., 2005b; Bonachela et al., 2015). Once the colony at the ori-
gin of the patch dies, other termite colonies and inquilines species,
soil invertebrates, and specific plant species colonize the nest
structure and continue to maintain it, increasing spatial heteroge-
neity of that specific biotope for a long period, from years to cen-
turies (e.g., Traoré et al., 2008, 2015; Rückamp et al., 2012; de
Oliveira et al., 2014; Erens et al., 2015). This is, for example,
the case for Macrotermes subhyalinus or Trinervitermes species
members that are observed in mounds built and abandoned by
Macrotermes bellicosus in West Africa (Traoré, personal obser-
vation). This is also the case of heuweltjies mounds in South Africa
that are thought to be built by the harvester termite Microhodotermes
viator and that have been present in the landscape for at least
the last 36,000 years (Potts et al., 2009 from Francis et al.,
2013). On the other hand, the division of termite colonies into
small, and sometimes short-lived, structures tends to increase
heterogeneity at a small (i.e., from micrometers to centimeters)
and sometimes short scale (i.e., several months) and with a low
intensity but leads to the homogenization of the soil physical
and chemical properties in the whole ecosystem during a long
period (Jouquet et al., 2006). Consequently, it seems that termites
are not passive bioturbators and that understanding their influence
on soil functioning requires knowledge of their ecological needs
and nest-building strategies.
Three functional groups are usually recognized to differenti-
ate the impact of termites on nutrient cycling and soil functioning:
the soil feeders, the grass/litter feeders (except fungus-growing
termites), and the fungus-growing termites (Termitidae, subfamily
Macrotermitinae). The first two groups consume organic matter
(e.g., humus, ingested with variable amounts of mineral material,
standing, or lying dead wood, grassy litter, herbivore dung) and
build their nests and line their galleries with soil particles glued
together with fecal matter. In contrast, fungus-growing termites
do not incorporate feces into their constructions, or do so only
rarely, and use saliva as a binding agent(Garnier-Sillam and
Harry, 1995). Consequently, the soil worked by soil and litter feeders
contains more SOM than the surrounding soil environment,
whereas the soil worked by fungus-growing termites usually con-
tains less SOM (Jouquet et al., 2011). Obviously, this difference in
SOM content influences a large number of soil properties such
as the stability of soil aggregates, their water-holding and cation
exchange capacities, sorption and availability of nutrients, soil
microbial communities, and so on (e.g., Duponnois et al., 2005;
Jouquet et al., 2005c; Lopez-Hernandez et al., 2006; Rückamp
et al., 2010).
Termites are classically separated into the paraphyletic
lowertermites and the monophyletic highertermites. Lower
termites include Mastotermitidae, Kalotermitidae, Hodotermitidae,
Archotermopsidae, Termopsidae, Stylotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae,
and Serritermitidae. Higher termites are gathered into a single
family, the Termitidae, which comprises approximately 75% of
all modern termite species (Krishna et al., 2013). All lower ter-
mites feed on wood, whereas the diet of higher termites is highly
diversified, with species feeding on a gradient of organic matter
ranging from wood to soil (Donovan et al., 2001; Bourguignon
et al., 2011). There seems to be imbalances in taxonomic studies
on termite diversity around the world because the termite fauna
of America, Asia, and Australia have been little documented com-
pared with that of Africa. In addition, termites are unequally distrib-
uted between continents, and their abundance follows the sequence
Africa > South America > Southeast Asia > Australia (Davies et al.,
2003). The primary cause of this pattern is historical, and the higher
termites likely originated 50 million years ago in Africa and dis-
persed worldwide after the Gondwana broke up (Eggleton, 2000;
Bourguignon et al., 2015). As a consequence, wood feeders are
present worldwide, soil feeders are absent in Australia and are most
abundant in Africa followed by South America and Southeast Asia,
and the fungus-growing termites are present in Africa and South-
east Asia only. At a local scale, any change in land use or modifica-
tion of natural habitats as a consequence of global change (e.g.,
forest logging and global warming) also affects termite diversity.
Evidence of reduced termite diversity or modification after ecosys-
tem perturbation has been reported on several occasions. For in-
stance, wood-feeding termites are considered to be more resilient
to perturbation than soil-feeding termites, which are particularly
vulnerable to disturbances (Jones et al., 2003). In specific conditions,
wood- and litter-feeding termites, especially the fungus growers
Macrotermitiane, may even show positive responses and increase
in abundance because of the accumulation of litter, dead wood
biomass, or crop residues (Attignon et al., 2005). These global
patterns of termite distribution at local or regional scales undoubt-
edly create differences in bioturbation rates and processes.
The influence of termites on soil structure is dynamic and, in
a recent review, Bottinelli et al. (2015) differentiated three scales
at which termites can have an impact on soil structure. First, at
the scale of clay mineral particles, some specific termite species,
mainly fungus-growing termite species from the Macrotermitinae
subfamily, act as mineral-weathering agentsby hastening the
weathering of clay minerals (Jouquet et al., 2002, 2007b; Mujinya
et al., 2011) or altering iron sesquioxides (Abe and Wakatsuki,
2010). However, as highlighted by Bottinelli et al. (2015), very little
information is available on this topic, and further studies are
required to determine if these examples can be generalized. Ter-
mites can also be considered as soil aggregate reorganizersat
the scale of soil aggregates, modifying their internal organization
and chemical properties for the production of their nest structures
(Jungerius et al., 1999). For example, termites play an important
role in the dynamics of soil aggregation in Brazilian Ferralsols. In
this soil, termite bioturbation is responsible for the specific granular
properties of soil microaggregates (50250 μm in diameter),
whereas macroaggregate (5001,000 μm in diameter) formation
is attributed to earthworm activity (Balbino et al., 2001, 2002;
Schaefer, 2001; Reatto et al., 2009). Last, termites can also play
the role of bioturbatorsat the profile scale with the translocation
of soil particles (mainly clay), soil aggregates (e.g., for the produc-
tion of termite sheetings covering the litter they consume), the pro-
duction of galleries, and the construction of epigeous mounds and
subterranean nests with specific chemical and physical properties
(Jouquet et al., 2011). Although the properties of these above-
ground nests are variable and depend on the termite feeding
group, they generally contain increased amounts of clay and cat-
ion contents. More SOM is also usually measured in termite nests,
Jouquet et al. Soil Science Volume 181, Number 3/4, March/April 2016
158 © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
except in the case of the fungus-growing termite nests that display
variable, but generally lower, SOM content compared with the
surrounding soil environment (Contour-Ansel et al., 2000; Fall
et al., 2001; Jouquet et al., 2004).
In addition to the classification of Bottinelli et al. (2015),
several studies suggested that termites can also act as ecosystem
heterogeneity driversthrough the creation of patchesor high-
landsof fertility that impact the functioning of the entire landscape
for a long period in some situations (Fig. 1) (Jouquet et al., 2007).
This effect of termites has mainly been highlighted in Africa
where termites produce epigeous mounds or termitaria with spe-
cific chemical properties (e.g., Muvengwi et al., 2013; Seymour
et al., 2014) and in Asia where they are conspicuous features in
paddy fields (Choosai et al., 2009). Although large mounds only
represent a minor proportion of landscapes (210/ha on average),
these patches of high-quality resources can be particularly im-
portant in nutrient-poor ecosystems, influencing mineral composi-
tion, nutrient cycling, topography, and fluxes in landscapes (Konaté
et al., 1999; Mills et al., 2009; Sileshi et al., 2010, from Seymour
et al., 2014). The concentration of clay, SOM, macronutrients, and
micronutrients in termite nest structures are also fertile islands
or nutrient hotspotsfor plants, other soil invertebrates, and large
herbivores (Mwabvu, 2005; Traoré et al., 2008, 2015; Choosai
et al., 2009; Erpenbach et al., 2013; Muvengwi et al., 2013,
2014; Van der Plas et al., 2013; Seymour et al., 2014). Termite
mounds have also been considered as focal points for tree regen-
eration within savannahs (Moe et al., 2009; Traoré et al., 2008,
2015) and can influence the productivity of the entire biome in
some circumstances (Pringle et al., 2010; Erpenbach et al.,
2013; Seymour et al., 2014; Muvengwi et al., 2014). They also
provide a hedge against drought, thereby increasing the level of
landscape resistance (Bonachela et al., 2015).
Termite bioturbation can influence water dynamics at the
same four scales of observation as above (Fig. 1).
At a small scale, any changes in clay and SOM contents and
quality, as well as in soil porosity, are likely to influence the soil
water-holding capacity and resistance to degradation by water.
The positive influence of termites on soil water-holding capacity
is widely recognized and has been highlighted on several occasions
for several trophic groups (Wood and Sand, 1978; Dangerfield
et al., 1998; Konaté et al., 1999; Jouquet et al., 2004; Dawes,
2010). Quantitative information on the effects of termites on soil
aggregate dynamics remains sparse at this scale of observation
and is mainly limited to comparisons between the soil aggregate sta-
bility of termite-worked soils (usually termite mounds) and that of
the surrounding soil environment. The influence of termites on soil
aggregate stability is directly linked to the specific dietary habits of
termites, the soil material used for nest making, and the ecological
importance of the termite structures (Jouquet et al., 2006, 2011).
FIG. 1. How termites influence soil structure and water dynamics depends on their capacity to produce galleries and modify soil
aggregates and mineral properties. Four groups can be differentiated: (i) the ecosystem heterogeneity drivers impacting heterogeneity and
hydrology at the landscape scal e; (ii) the sensu stricto bioturbators influencing soil dynamics at the profile scale, leading to modification inwater
infiltration; and (iii) the soil aggregate reorganizers and (iv) mineral-weathering agents influencing clay properties and water-holding
capacity at the soil aggregate and clay scales. Figure modified from Bottinelli et al. (2015).
Soil Science Volume 181, Number 3/4, March/April 2016 Termites as Neglected Soil Engineers
© 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved. 159
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
TABLE 1. Articles Referenced in the Web of Science Database From 2005 to 2015 in Selected Journals in Soil Science and Biology With High-Impact Factorsand Reporting Direct
Evidence of the Impact of Termites on Soil Physical, Chemical, and Biological Properties and Water Dynamics
Journals and Articles Clay Aggregate Profile Landscape Country
Applied Soil Ecology
Moura et al. 2015 Water infiltration Brazil
Jouquet et al. 2012 Dynamics of aggregates Soil erosion Vietnam
Rückamp et al. 2009 Chemical properties Brazil
Ayuke et al. 2011 Dynamics of aggregates Kenya
Bezerra-Gusmao et al. 2011 C cycling Brazil
Rückamp et al. 2009 Nitrate and DOC leaching Brazil
Jimenez et al. 2008 Chemical properties Colombia
Ackerman et al. 2007 Chemical, physical, and
hydraulic properties Brazil
Biology and Fertility of Soils
Costa et al. 2013 Microbial properties Brazil
Brossard et al. 2007 Chemical properties Stocks of nutrients Burkina Faso
Lopez-Hernandez et al. 2006 Chemical properties Venezuela, Côte d'Ivoire
Jouquet et al. 2005a Clay mineralogy Chemical and physical
properties Côte d'Ivoire
Mujinya et al. 2014 Physical properties Chemical and physical
properties Spatial distribution Congo
Francis et al. 2013 Clay mineralogy Soil properties Water infiltration in mound South Africa
Sarcinelli et al. 2009 Physical, chemical, and
Termite mound distribution
along a toposequence Brazil
Reatto et al. 2009 Microaggregate properties Chemical and physical
properties Brazil
European Journal of Soil Biology
Diouf et al. 2006 Microbial properties Senegal
Jimenez and Decaens. 2006 Chemical properties Spatial variability Colombia
Mora et al. 2006 Spatial and temporal
variability Senegal
Jouquet et al. Soil Science Volume 181, Number 3/4, March/April 2016
160 © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
European Journal of Soil Science
De Oliveira et al. 2014 Clay mineralogy Microstructural
transformation Chemical and physical
properties Brazil
Mujinya et al. 2013 Clay and oxides properties Clays and oxides properties Congo
Rückamp et al. 2012 Chemical properties Soil genesis Brazil
Mujinya et al. 2011 Origin of carbonate Chemical and physical
properties Congo
Mujinya et al. 2010 Soil properties Congo
Rückamp et al. 2010 Chemical properties Brazil
Sako et al. 2009 Clay mineralogy Chemical properties Namibia
Obi and Ogunkunle. 2009 Soil spatial variability Nigeria
Cosarinsky and Roces. 2007 Micromorphology Soil properties Argentina
Breuning-Madsen et al. 2007 Soil translocation Soil translocation Ghana
Jouquet et al. 2007a Clay mineralogy Côte d'Ivoire
Abe and Wakatsuki. 2010 Sesquioxide alteration Nigeria
Villenave et al. 2009 Biological properties Senegal
Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Dahlsjo et al. 2014 Chemical properties Peru
Seymour et al. 2014 Spatial variability Zimbabwe
Renard et al. 2014 Dynamic of aggregates French Guiana
Griffiths et al. 2013 Chemical properties Kenya
Dawes. 2010 Soil porosity, penetration
resistance, and water storage Australia
Bandowe et al. 2009 Chemical properties Brazil
Jimenez et al. 2006 Chemical properties Spatial heterogeneity Colombia
Jouquet et al. 2005c Microbial properties Côte d'Ivoire
Roose-Amsaleg et al. 2005 Physical and biological
properties Gabon
Mora et al. 2005 Biological activity Colombia
Soil Science
Soil and Tillage Research
Articles are classified according to country study and scale of observation where main functions measured are listed. Review articles and articles focused on termite diversity were not considered.
In alphabetic order: Applied Soil Ecology,Biology and Fertility of Soils,Catena,European Journal of Soil Biology,European Journal of Soil Science,Geoderma,Pedobiologia,Soil Biology and Biochemistry,
Soil Science,Soil and Tillage Research.
Soil Science Volume 181, Number 3/4, March/April 2016 Termites as Neglected Soil Engineers
© 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved. 161
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
For example, fungus-growing termites enrich their nests in clay
but tend to reduce their SOM content, whereas soil-feeding ter-
mites always increase the SOM content of their nest structures
(Jouquet et al., 2011).As a consequence, fungus-growing termites
usually have a negative impact on soil aggregate resistance to
water, whereas soil-feeding termites have a positive one (Contour-
Ansel et al., 2000; Jouquet et al., 2004).
At a medium (i.e., soil profile) scale, the production of a
dense network of foraging galleries connected to the soil surface
also usually improves water infiltration (Mando et al., 1996; Léonard
and Rajot,2001; Léonard et al., 2004). However, the translocation
of hundreds of kilograms to tons of soil per hectare on the ground
for harvesting leaves, wood, and herbivore dung (termite sheet-
ings) (Wood and Sand, 1978; Bagine, 1984) can rapidly generate
structural crusts that foster water runoff and soil detachment
(Jouquet et al., 2012; Bargués Tobella et al., 2014). The degrada-
tion of termite mound nests by rain or organisms (i.e., termitophilous
vertebrates and mammals feeding on termite-worked soils) can
also form seals that locally reduce water infiltration (Janeau and
Valentin, 1987). Therefore,the final impact of termites on soil hy-
drological properties results from the balance between processes
favoring soil infiltrability (i.e., the formation of open galleries
on the soil surface) and those fostering the formationof imperme-
able erosion crusts and the detachment of soil aggregates (i.e.,the
degradation of soil sheetings).
Last, at a larger scale, the concentration of nutrients and the
presence of specific vegetation on termite mounds can also have
an impact on the hydrological characteristics of watersheds in cer-
tain situations. Using rainfall simulations, Bargués Tobella et al.
(2014) measured the highest preferential flow under trees asso-
ciated with termite mounds in agroforestry systems in Burkina
Faso. Intermediate results were obtained under single trees, and
the lowest values were obtained in the open areas. Thus, the increas-
ing organic matter and better microclimate beneath trees enhance
termite activity, which in turn contributes to better preferential
flow (but not infiltrability) and groundwater recharge (Bargués
Tobella et al., 2014). Similar results were observed in the Amazon
where the water-holding capacity was reduced but water infiltra-
tion increased in termite mound soil (Ackerman et al., 2007). A re-
cent study (Bonachela et al., 2015) even suggested that termite
mound nests may increase the robustness or resilience of African
dryland ecosystems against water shortage and desertification.
Compared with earthworms, little is known about the influ-
ence of termites on soil functioning. For example, approximately
10 times more articles on earthworms than on termites are refer-
enced in the Web of Science database (7,464 and 767 articles,
respectively, using the key words soiland either earthworms
or termitesfrom 2005 to 2015). Furthermore, whereas the en-
gineering effects of earthworms were studied across several coun-
tries from five continents (Blouin et al., 2013), studies on termites
as soil engineers have been mainly confined to sites in Africa and
South America. Only 44 recent research articles (reviews were not
included)in the top 10 soil science journals (Table 1) investigated
the direct influence of termites on these four scale processes (key
word search soiland termites) in the last 10 years (20052015).
From this list, 21 studies were carried out in Africa (mainly in West
Africa and in particular in the Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Senegal,
and Nigeria) and 20 in South America (mainly in Brazil), with only
one study each in Asia (Vietnam) and Oceania (Australia). Thus,
it seems that more research is needed in the Asia-Pacific region,
which has been neglected so far. Table 1 also shows that most
(n= 28) of the referenced articles focused on the influence of
termites on soil properties at the soil aggregate scale, often by
comparing soil properties (collected from the aboveground mounds
or soil sheetings) with the surrounding soil environment. In con-
trast, less has been done at the smallest (eight articles) and largest
scales (11 articles), highlighting the need for studies at additional
levels of complexity and scales of time and space.Information about
the properties of subterranean termite nests is also scarce, although
the density and abundance of these belowground soil structures often
exceed that of those observed aboveground (Jouquet et al., 2004).
From this list of articles, it also seems that more research is needed
on the impact of termite bioturbation activity on water dynamics.
This question has mainly been developed in studies of soil aggregate
stability of termite mound soils and water infiltration on these struc-
tures. In contrast, very little information is available on the influence
of termite foraging activity on soil porosity and water dynamics.
Last, another knowledge gap is the predominance of research
on natural or seminatural habitats, with much less focus on culti-
vated landseither agricultural or agroforestry systems. This is
perhaps caused by the fact that researchers have focused on ter-
mites as pests in agroecosystemsand that tillage or land clearance
usually has a negative impact on termite abundance and diversity
(Black and Okwakol, 1997). Hence, a key challenge is to consi-
der the crucial roles played by termites in natural systems and
to promote their activities to improve agroecosystem function-
ing. Unfortunately, very little is known about the potential of
using termite activity to restore or improve ecosystem functioning
(20 articles for termites compared with 85 and 6,358 articles, for
earthworms and plants, respectively, as referenced by Jouquet
et al., 2014). Most of these articles were limited to demonstrating
that the application of mulch stimulates termite activity in semi-
arid environments (e.g., Mando et al., 1996; Dawes, 2010), then
highlighting the fact that termites improve soil porosity, water in-
filtration, and sometimes plant diversity and productivity. The
usefulness and efficiency of this approach in other environments
and climates, however, remain unknown. For example, the stimu-
lation of termite activity by mulch application has been proposed
for improving soil fertility in the subarid environments of India,
which are similar to those observed in West African sub-Sahelian
and Australian environments, but this approach has not been
tested so far (Pardeshi and Prusty, 2010).
Our knowledge of the impact of termites on soil properties
remains mainly limited to studies carried out in West Africa and
Brazil with a few species and generally under natural conditions.
Studies have mainly focused on the soil aggregate scale, over-
shadowing the impact of termites on soil functioning at larger
and smaller scales. As a consequence, many questions that have
been addressed for earthworms remain unstudied with termites,
and we are still far from developing approaches to use termites
as naturalresources to improve ecosystem functioning. For exam-
ple, whereas increased earthworm production and diversity are
now perceived as indicators and targets of sustainable agricultural
practicesin temperate regions, termite eradication is still the main
goal in tropical agroecosystems. Only increased knowledge of the
influence of termites on soil structure and water dynamics can
change this trend and explore the potential use of termites for ef-
ficient management of natural resources in tropical ecosystems.
As in any review, the concepts and ideas formulated in this
article result from dialogs with many colleagues and peers,
who are all acknowledged. We are grateful to Zhang Dexin for
her illustrations.
Jouquet et al. Soil Science Volume 181, Number 3/4, March/April 2016
162 © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
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... Termites (Blattodea: Termitoidae) are invertebrates in the soil macrofauna that feed on soil and plant matter or only wood and grass (Brune, 2014), and create structures that facilitate their locomotion and survival in the soil (Jouquet et al., 2006;Ferreira et al., 2011;Jouquet et al., 2011;Jouquet et al., 2016b). These organisms are more adapted to dry and warm pedoenvironments, where they can supplant the function that earthworms play (Evans et al., 2011;Jouquet et al., 2016a). However, as regards the action of termites in soil formation, several questions remain to be investigated (Lobry de Bruyn and Conacher, 1990;Jouquet et al., 2015;Jouquet et al., 2016a). ...
... These organisms are more adapted to dry and warm pedoenvironments, where they can supplant the function that earthworms play (Evans et al., 2011;Jouquet et al., 2016a). However, as regards the action of termites in soil formation, several questions remain to be investigated (Lobry de Bruyn and Conacher, 1990;Jouquet et al., 2015;Jouquet et al., 2016a). ...
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Termites can create structures that alter the physical and chemical properties of soils. In this process, termites are selective about the soil constituents they will use to construct their mounds. Considering the common occurrence of termite mounds in Brazilian soils, this study aimed to investigate the selective action of termites in the mound building process. Samples were collected from six termite mounds and control soils (at a distance of 15 to 30 m from the termite mound) in different regions in Brazil to analyze the fine earth fraction. The content of clay fraction, organic C and Fe in pedogenic iron oxides increased in the mounds resulting in specific surface area increments. X-ray diffraction indicated a selectivity of termites by clay-sized particles such as kaolinite, gibbsite and iron oxides (hematite and goethite) rather than larger particles such as quartz. The proportion of low-crystalline iron oxides and the maghemite amount decreased in the mounds. The change of color parameters in the termite mounds was due to a combination of increase in clay fraction, organic carbon and iron oxides. The techniques used were sensitive, indicating changes and similarities between the control soils and the termite mounds. X-ray diffraction; VIS-MIR spectra; tropical soils; macrofauna; bioturbation
... Through their bioturbation activity, termites impact the dynamics of soil and water at different spatial and temporal scales (Bottinelli et al., 2015;Jouquet et al., 2016a). At a small scale, termites have been compared to weathering agents because they influence the mineralogy of clay and the properties of soil aggregates, which in turn influence soil organic matter and nutrient dynamics (Abbadie and Lepage, 1989;Jouquet et al., 2002) as well as soil water-holding capacity (Konaté et al., 1999;Suzuki et al., 2007;Traoré et al., 2019). ...
... For instance, several studies showed higher C content in termite mounds than in the surrounding soil (Jouquet et al., 2005;De Souza et al., 2020;Chen et al., 2021;Wakbulcho and Kenea, 2021), while Cheik et al. (2018) found a negative or neutral effect of termite bioturbation activity. Finally, termites act as heterogeneity drivers and shape the distribution of natural resources such as water and nutrients at the landscape scale through the edification of mounds that are comparable to nutrient patches or fertility islands (Dangerfield et al., 1988;Sileshi et al., 2010;Van der Plas et al., 2013;Cramer and Midgley, 2015;Davies et al., 2016;Jouquet et al., 2016aJouquet et al., , 2011Muvengwi et al., 2017;Muvengwi and Witkowski, 2020;Chen et al., 2021). The specific soil biological, chemical, and physical properties of termite mounds have largely been described, especially in Africa, where they play a key role in the dynamics of vegetation (e.g., Traoré et al., 2008) and increase the robustness and resilience of African dryland ecosystems against water shortages and desertification (Bonachela et al., 2015). ...
In Cambodia, termite mounds are commonly used by farmers as amendments to increase the fertility of their paddy fields. However, despite their utilization, their chemical and physical properties have not been described yet. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze the chemical and physical properties of two termite constructions commonly found in paddy fields: (a) termitaria built and occupied by the fungus-growing termite Macrotermes gilvus and (b) lenticular mounds that are initially built by termites but host a large diversity of other invertebrates and plants. This study shows that these biogenic structures have very specific properties. Termitaria were characterized by higher clay, phosphorus and electrical conductivity than the surrounding soil. However, their effect on carbon dynamics was limited to a modification of the interactions between soil organic matter and minerals and to the presence of carbonates. At the same time, lenticular mounds appeared as patches of nutrients in paddy fields because they were always enriched in carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in comparison with the surrounding cultivated soil. Lenticular mounds were also enriched in clay, although this effect was only measured when the sand content in the surrounding environment was >60%. Together with these changes, lenticular mounds were characterized by a lower bulk density, higher saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat), and higher water holding capacity. In conclusion, this study shows that termite constructions can be considered fertility and biogeochemical hotspots in paddy fields, thus explaining their use by farmers for improving the fertility of their lands.
... While termites are dreaded in urban areas where their feeding habits jeopardize wooden structures, within soil systems they play a crucial role, especially in the tropics, recycling organic matter, improving soil structure and aggregation, and enhancing soil fertility (Joquet et al., 2016). • Some species of ants and termites maintain "fungus gardens" in their subterranean nests, hills, or mounds, continuously feeding the fungi resident in these gardens with recalcitrant organic matter that the fungi digest. ...
... Despite being central to ecosystem functioning, termites still need to be studied compared to other taxa (Jouquet et al., 2016). We believe that this is in part due to the difficulty of collecting and identifying them, mainly because Apicotermitinae can compose about a third of termites of a sampled area (Ackerman et al., 2009), and only in the last decades, the taxonomy of this group is being regularly worked on. ...
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Apicotermitinae are soldierless termites highly abundant in tropical forests. The taxonomy of this subfamily is based on characters of worker cast and winged forms when present. However, the procedures necessary to dissect termite workers to observe their external and internal morphological characteristics are not well detailed in any study. Here, we describe a step-by-step protocol for worker dissection of soldierless termite species. We suggest the use of Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) for cleaning and visualization of the gizzard and enteric valve, and glycerin to remove tergites and sternites and describe in detail the dissection of the gizzard and enteric valve, and how visualize the insertion of Malpighian tubules.
... Termites are soil faunal agents able to significantly modify soil profiles to great depths. They are renowned ecosystem engineers, modifying their soil surroundings to maintain ideal humidity and temperature conditions, and their foraging paths may extend many 10 s of meters (Jouquet et al., 2016;Dira & Daniels, 2018). There is growing evidence that termites have a substantial, but still poorly understood role in the C cycle (Jamali et al., 2011;Jouquet et al., 2020). ...
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A R T I C L E I N F O Keywords: Southern Harvester termite Oxalate carbonate pathway Soil organic matter Carbon sequestration A B S T R A C T Termites are keystone species in natural ecosystems and their role in the C cycle is potentially substantial but poorly understood. Large (20-40 m) mounds (heuweltjies) of the harvester termite Microhodotermes viator occupy up to a quarter of the semi-arid west coast region of South Africa but their C storage potential is unknown. This study determined the organic and inorganic C fractions, C stocks, and their correlation with each other, depth, and biogenic features in these mounds. Trenches (30-60 m) were excavated through 3 mounds: Buffels River (m. a.p < 100 mm), Klawer (m.a.p 100-200 mm) and Piketberg (m.a.p 300-400 mm) and grid sampled. Mound soils had significantly higher soil organic carbon (SOC) and inorganic carbon (SIC) than surrounding soils. Total C was strongly correlated (ρ > 0.9; p < 0.001) with SIC in the arid mounds and SOC (ρ > 0.75; p < 0.001) in the higher rainfall mound. There was no consistent relationship between SOC and SIC distributions throughout the mounds, which is likely related to solubility-linked translocations of carbonates. For all mounds, SOC was highest in topsoils with a second clear peak in subsoils (>1 m) that was associated with biogenic features, termite channels and burrows. Subsoils contributed substantially (36-41 %) to the total C stock. Total C stocks for the intermediate rainfall mound (Klawer) were estimated at 14.6 tons per mound, with 1.1 tons SOC. In this region, mounds occupy 27 % of the total area but contribute 44 % of the total SOC stock to a depth of 80 cm. This highlights the disproportionate contribution termite mounds make to carbon stocks of these semi-arid environments and demonstrates the importance of deep (<1 m) soil carbon for C modelling. Termite activity needs to be recognized as a major contributor to C stock variability both laterally and at depth and accounted for in land-use change (CO 2-LULUCF) models.
... Isoptera was positively associated with soil TP (Figure 3), which correlates with the physical activity that Isoptera provides along the soil profile as bio-disturbers, and at the soil aggregate level as reorganizers of total soil porosity (Bottinelli et al., 2015;Jouquet et al., 2016Jouquet et al., , 2019. Isoptera organisms, also considered ecosystem engineers, provide soil biostructures such as galleries, channels, chambers, and stable biogenic aggregates (Lavelle et al., 2020), which operate as a network of horizontal and vertical macropores, where organic residues are often observed inside them (Jouquet et al., 2011). ...
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Soil macrofauna is an important indicator of soil quality, as it is sensitive to changes in the environment as a result of soil management, which includes soil chemical and physical properties and the diversity of cultivated species. This study aimed to evaluate the composition and structure of soil macrofauna under a no-tillage system in different crop sequences, with and without crop rotation, over two growing seasons: a rainy summer and a dry winter. The crop sequences were soybean/corn rotation in the summer and corn in the winter; soybean/corn rotation in the summer and sunn hemp in the winter; soybean monoculture in the summer and sunn hemp in the winter; and corn monoculture in the summer and corn monoculture in the winter growing season. The nutrient content of the crop residues left on the soil surface, soil chemical and physical properties, and soil macrofauna were determined. Functional plant groups (grasses or legumes) individually influenced the composition of soil macrofauna more significantly than the effect of crop sequence, with or without rotation, and growing season. Grasses favored an increased density of groups such as Oligochaeta, Isoptera, and Formicidae. In contrast, legumes contributed to the variation in the total density of individuals and Diplura and Coleoptera groups. Furthermore, the influence of functional plant groups (grasses or legumes) on the composition and density of soil macrofauna were related to soil chemical (P and N content) and physical properties (particulate organic carbon and soil moisture), which determined the composition of soil macrofauna groups. Keywords rotation; organic matter; bottom-up effects; soil chemistry; ecosystem engineers
... 4 Termites as "soil engineers" influence the distribution of nutrients and minerals to their adjacent soil. 5 Termites construct structures called mounds which have been reviewed by several authors to be rich in microbial diversity as influenced by a lot of nutrients accumulated in soil from termite mound. 6,7 Recently, soils from termite mound have been presented to farmers in central Côte d'Ivoire, 8 Sierra Leone, 9 Zimbabwe 10 , and Uganda 11 to grow vegetables and other crops on top of mounds, whereas agronomists in southern Zambia excavate and amass soil from termite mounds and use it as an alternative to increase their soil fertility at their local farms. ...
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The ecological deterioration caused by the continuous and excessive use of synthetic inputs in agriculture has prompted the search for environmentally favorable resources for crop production. Many have advocated for the use of soils from termite mounds to improve soil and plant health; therefore, the purpose of this study was to characterize the microbiome multifunctionalities that are important for plant health and growth in termite mound soil. The metagenomics of soil from termite mounds revealed taxonomic groups with functional potentials associated with promoting the growth and health of plants in nutrient-poor, virtually dry environments. Analysis of microorganisms revealed that Proteobacteria dominated the soil of termite colonies, while Actinobacteria ranked second. The predominance of Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria, the well-known antibiotic-producing populations, indicates that the termite mound soil microbiome possesses metabolic resistance to biotic stresses. Functions recognized for diverse proteins and genes unveiled that a multi-functional microbiome carry out numerous metabolic functions including virulence, disease, defense, aromatic compound and iron metabolism, secondary metabolite synthesis, and stress response. The abundance of genes in termite mound soils associated with these prominent functions could unquestionably validate the enhancement of plants in abiotic and biotically stressed environments. This study reveals opportunities to revisit the multifunctionalities of termite mound soils in order to establish a connection between taxonomic diversity, targeted functions, and genes that could improve plant yield and health in unfavorable soil conditions.
... In particular, the greater amount of clay minerals in termite constructions, sometimes having specific soil physical, biological, and chemical properties from that observed in the surrounding environment, has been described in numerous studies, due to its significant impact on soil dynamics and fertility. Three mechanisms are commonly proposed to explain the impact of termites on clay dynamics in soil (Jouquet et al. 2016): ...
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Bioturbation by termites is considered a key process in the regulation of soil properties in tropical soils. The concentration of clay and the presence of 2:1 clay minerals in termite soil are usually explained by the need for termites to build stable biogenic structures and/or to have access to water only available in the lower soil layers. However, while these hypotheses are attractive, they do not always offer a sufficient explanation for understanding termite bioturbation behavior. Here, we used ecological stoichiometry theory to propose a third hypothesis that bioturbation can also be explained by the limitation of termites for Na⁺. This chemical element is missing from the vegetation consumed by termites, while it plays an important role in the regulation of termites’ physiological processes. In old and highly weathered soils, such as those found in the tropics, a significant source of Na⁺ for termites likely comes from 2:1 minerals, which are only available in the deeper soil layers. Therefore, this article aims to propose the hypothesis of the use of bioturbation by termites as a means to fulfill their need for Na⁺. The impacts of this ecological process on ecosystem functioning and soil fertility are discussed.
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Ferralsols correspond to the red and yellow soils that are common in the tropics. They are deeply weathered but physical fertility is high because they exhibit a strong microgranular structure whose origin is still actively debated. In the present study, we looked for evidence of the biological origin of the structure resulting from soil fauna activity. We present results recorded with Brazilian Ferralsols developed under native vegetation. It was found that the Ferralsols studied exhibit morphological features related to the activity of social insects. We showed the presence of potassium 2:1 clays originating from the saprolite in the microaggregates of all the Ferralsols studied. These 2:1 clays were earlier discussed as markers of long-term termite activity. This highlights the threat that weighs on the physical fertility of these soils, and more broadly on the water cycle in the tropical regions concerned, if intensive agriculture reduces the soil fauna biodiversity, as indicated by several studies.
The soil-insect interaction has gathered significant attention in the recent years due to its contribution to bio-cementation. Termites, as a group of cellulose-eating insects, alter physical (texture) and chemical (chemical composition) properties of soil. Conversely, physico-chemical properties of soil also influence termite activities. It is vital to understand the soil-termite interaction and their influence on hydraulic properties and shear strength of soil, which are related to a series of geotechnical engineering problems such as ground water recharge, runoff, erosion and stability of slopes. In this study, an attempt has been made to review the latest developments and research gaps in our understanding of soil-termite interaction within the context of geo-environmental engineering. The hydraulic properties and shear strength of termite modified soil were discussed with respect to soil texture, density and physico-chemical composition. The incorporation of hysteresis effect of soil water characteristic curve, and spatio-temporal variations of hydraulic conductivity and shear strength of termite modified soil is proposed to be considered in geotechnical engineering design and construction. Finally, the challenges and future trends in this research area are presented. The expertise from both geotechnical engineering and entomology is needed to plan future research with an aim to promote use of termites as maintenance engineers in geotechnical infrastructure.
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Ecosystem engineers function as regulators of ecosystem functions by influencing the fluxes of energy and materials across different spatial and temporal scales. Understanding how ecosystem engineers affect the dynamic of heterogeneity in ecosystems is becoming a fundamental component of both theoretical and applied Ecology. This manuscript offers a conceptual discussion for characterizing how and why soil engineers (earthworms, termites and ants) affect heterogeneity patterns. There are two types of ecosystem engineers in soils. Extended phenotype engineers concentrate their activities on the building of biogenic structures (earthworm casts, galleries and nest structures) in order to maintain optimal conditions for their growth. Conversely, accidental engineers expend energy in moving through the soil to find their optimal environment. Although both types of engineers create patches in an ecosystem, we argue that extended phenotype engineers have more effects on ecosystem heterogeneity since their activities are more concentrated in space, as compared to accidental engineers, which move and contribute to homogenisation of ecological processes throughout the whole ecosystem. Finally, we discuss how soil engineers affect ecosystem processes (e.g., carbon, water, and nutrient cycling) at higher scales than those of their own functional domains. While some biogenic structures can be looked on as patches or hot-spots without any interactions with their neighbourhoods at small space scales, others interact and constitute gradients and networks that significantly affect ecosystem processes, such as the population dynamic of trees or soil erosion at the landscape scale. We argue that it is necessary to have a quantitative knowledge on the size, boundaries and dynamics of patches created by soil engineers. Embracing the links between the ecology of engineers and the frontiers of their sphere of influence will enhance understanding how spatial heterogeneity regulated by ecosystem engineers affect pools and fluxes in ecosystems.
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Thirteen termite mounds and 13 similar-sized control plots were surveyed in central Zimbabwe in order to study large mammalian browsing and vegetation characteristics. The mounds supported almost twice as many tree species as the control plots and the woody vegetation was denser on mounds compared with the woodland plots. Species of woody plants were recorded along with the percentage of branches browsed (cumulative browsing score) by black rhino, Diceros bicornis, elephant, Loxodonta africana and other browsers combined. In addition we measured how the cumulative browsing score on three woody plant species, Acacia nilotica, Colophospermum mopane and Dichrostachys cinerea, which were common both on and off mounds, was related to the distance from mound centre. Both black rhino and elephant cumulative browsing scores were significantly higher on the mound plants compared with the woodland plots. Cumulative browsing score was negatively related to distance from the mound centre for Dichrostachys cinerea, Colophospermum mopane and Acacia nilotica. We propose that termite mound construction in miombo woodland contributes to sustaining populations of megaherbivores and perhaps some woody species in these areas.
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In a small watershed of NW Ivory Coast, the termite mounds of Trinervitermes develop mainly in the zones with scanty grass cover, sealed soil surface and numerous marks of runoff and erosion. As assessed by rainfall simulation tests, great differences in runoff and detachability occur among these laterally differentiated surfaces. The results suggest that Trinervitermes may foster land degradation. -from English summary
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Fungus-growing termites are involved in many ecological processes and play a central role in influencing soil dynamics in the tropics. The physical and chemical properties of their nest structures have been largely described; however less information is available concerning the relatively temporary structures made above-ground to access food items and protect the foraging space (the soil 'sheetings'). This study investigated whether the soil physical and chemical properties of these constructions are constant or if they vary depending on the type of food they cover. Soil samples and soil sheetings were collected in a forest in India, from leaves on the ground (LEAF), fallen branches (WOOD), and vertical soil sheetings covering the bark of trees (TREE). In this environment, termite diversity was dominated by Odontotermes species, and especially Odontotermes feae and Odontotermes obesus. However, there was no clear niche differentiation and, for example, O. feae termites were found on all the materials. Compared with the putative parent soil (control), TREE sheetings showed the greatest (and most significant) differences (higher clay content and smaller clay particle sizes, lower C and N content and smaller d 13 C and d 15 N), while LEAF sheetings were the least modified, though still significantly different than the control soil. We suggest that the termite diversity is a less important driver of potential soil modification than sheeting diversity. Further, there is evidence that construction properties are adapted to their prospective lifespan , with relatively long-lasting structures being most different from the parent soil.
Interactions between organisms are a major determinant of the distribution and abundance of species. Ecology textbooks (e.g., Ricklefs 1984, Krebs 1985, Begon et al. 1990) summarise these important interactions as intra- and interspecific competition for abiotic and biotic resources, predation, parasitism and mutualism. Conspicuously lacking from the list of key processes in most text books is the role that many organisms play in the creation, modification and maintenance of habitats. These activities do not involve direct trophic interactions between species, but they are nevertheless important and common. The ecological literature is rich in examples of habitat modification by organisms, some of which have been extensively studied (e.g. Thayer 1979, Naiman et al. 1988).
tTermites, herbivores and fire are recognized as major guilds that structure woody plant communities inAfrican savanna and woodland ecosystems. An understanding of their interaction is crucial to designappropriate management regimes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the long–term impacts ofherbivore, fire and termite activities on regeneration of trees. Permanent experimental quadrats wereestablished in 1992 in the Sudanian woodland of Burkina Faso subjected to grazing by livestock andannual early fire and the control. Within the treatment quadrats, an inventory of the woody undergrowthcommunity was conducted on termitaria occupied by Macrotermes subhyalinus, extended termitosphere(within 5 m radius from the mound base) and adjacent area (beyond 5 m from the mound base). Hier-archical analysis was performed to determine significant differences in species richness, abundance anddiversity indices among vegetation patches within fire and herbivory treatments. Grazed quadrats hadsignificantly (P < 0.001) more species and stem density of woody undergrowth than non-grazed quadratsbut maintained similar level of species richness and stem density of woody undergrowth on termitaria.There were not significant differences (P > 0.05) in species richness and stem density between burnt andunburnt quadrats. Termitaria supported a highly diverse woody undergrowth with higher stem densitythan either the extended termitosphere or rest of quadrats. The density of woody undergrowth wassignificantly related with mature trees of selected species on termitaria (R2= 0.593; P < 0.001) than thaton the extended termitosphere (R2= 0.333; P < 0.001) and adjacent area (R2= 0.197; P < 0.001). It can beconcluded that termites facilitate the regeneration of woody species while grazing and annual early fireplay a minor role in the regeneration of woody species. The current policy that prohibits grazing shouldbe revised to accommodate the interests of livestock herders.