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Influence of soil type on the properties of termite mound nests in Southern India

Abstract : Termite mounds are conspicuous features in many tropical ecosystems. Their shape and soil physicochemical properties have been suggested to result from the termites ecological need to control the temperature and humidity within their nests and protect themselves from predators. This study aimed to determine the influence of the parent soil properties on the shape and soil physical and chemical properties of termite mounds. Termite mounds built by the fungus-growing termite species Odontotermes obesus were compared in two forests with different soil properties (Ferralsol or Luvisol) in Southern India. Our findings confirm that soil properties influence the physicochemical characteristics of mound material and may affect the shape, but these impacts are mostly independent of the size of the mounds (i.e., the age of the colonies). Mound walls were more enriched in clay and impoverished in C and N in the Luvisol than the Ferralsol. However, their shape was more complex in the Ferralsol than the Luvisol, suggesting a possible link between the clay content in soil and the shape of termite mounds. The results also suggest that clay becomes enriched in O. obesus mound walls through a more passive process rather than solely by particle selection, and that termite mound shape results from the soil properties rather than the ecological needs of termites. In conclusion, although ecologists have mainly focused upon the influence of termite ecological needs on their nest properties, this study highlights the need for a better understanding about the role of the soil pedological properties and, as a consequence, how these properties drive the establishment and survival of termites in tropical ecosystems.
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Pascal Jouquet, Nabila Guilleux, Rashmi Ramesh Shanbhag, Sankaran Subramanian. Influence of soil type on the properties of termite mound nests in Southern India. Applied Soil Ecology, Elsevier, 2015, 96, pp.282-287. ⟨10.1016/j.apsoil.2015.08.010⟩. ⟨hal-02630638⟩



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