Termites are dominant members of the soil arthropod community in all tropical ecosystems. The decline of species diversity is a common consequence of tropical forest conversion. However, little is known about how termite functional traits respond to land‐use change, especially the conversion of forest habitats to rubber plantations.
In a recent issue of Ecological Entomology, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) reported that the conversion from primary forests to rubber plantations resulted in the decline of termite taxonomic and functional diversity, and changed the functional traits of some termite species.
The researchers compared the termite assemblages in primary forests and monoculture rubber plantations in Xishuangbanna, southern Yunnan, China, and investigated the impact of the conversion of primary forest to rubber plantations on termites.
They first identified how individual species respond from both a taxonomic and a functional perspective, and then determined how those individual species' responses contribute to changes in taxonomic and functional diversity at both the site‐level richness (α‐diversity) and among‐site turnover (β‐diversity) scales. Finally, they contrasted overall taxonomic and functional community composition in rubber plantations and primary forest.
Teh results showed a strong effect of the conversion of primary forest to monoculture rubber plantations on termite species.
Only 11 of the 27 species found were able to tolerate both habitats. 27.35% of the termite species were absent from rubber plantations. For the species that were able to tolerate both rubber plantations and primary forests, their traits were, on average, smaller in rubber plantations.
Those responses of individual species resulted in a sharp decline in termite taxonomic and functional diversity at both intra‐ (α) and inter‐site (β) scales.
“To the best of our knowledge, the present study is one of few studies that formally assesses the impact of land‐use change on the functional trait structure of termite assemblages”, said Prof. YANG Xiaodong, principal investigator of the study.
YANG Xiaodong Principal Investigator
Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China