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   Location:Home > Research > Research Progress
Termite nesting contributes to soil nutrient cycling in tropical ecosystems
Author: Chen Chunfeng
Update time: 2023-02-13
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Termites are primary ecosystem engineers that play vital roles in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. Termite mounds play central roles in nutrient fixation and cycling in terrestrial ecosystems.However, termite–microbe interactions and their impact on nutrient cycling processes in tropical ecosystems have been less studied. 

In a study published in Geoderma, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) investigated termite-induced changes in soil microbial communities and their nutrient cycling functions within termite mounds (i.e. live mounds and abandoned mounds) in the humid tropical region of Southwest China. 

The researchers examined the spatial distributions of microbial communities and their related functions on nutrient cycling in different mound stages (live mounds and abandoned mounds). They demonstrated the changes in spatial distribution pattern of microbial community composition and structure in the termite mounds. 

The results showed that live termite mounds harbour unique microbial communities with an intermediate abundance between surrounding topsoils and deep soils and a higher ratio of fungi to bacteria in live mounds relative to surrounding soils. However, the microbial communities tended to resemble surrounding soils when the mounds were abandoned.  

In live mounds, microbial communities significantly decreased relative to the surrounding surface soils. Conversely, the termite mounds supported higher microbial richness and biomass than the surrounding deep soils.The elevated nutrients in the mounds may provide more energy and primary carbon sources for the growth of microorganisms, resulting in a greater increase in the microbial communities in live mounds than in surrounding deep soils. 

The microbes in the live mounds tended to use complex, residual organic substrates as the energy source rather than plant-derived organic matter. However, microbes acquire energy identical to the pre-existing recalcitrant C of mounds and easily degradable organic materials from plant sources when mounds are abandoned. 

Our results demonstrated that termite nesting behaviour and its effect on the physicochemical properties shape the microbial communities and microbial processes in termite mounds and subsequently contribute to soil nutrient cycling in tropical ecosystems, said LIU Wenjie of XTBG. 



LIU Wenjie Ph.D Principal Investigator  

Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China  

E-mail: lwj@xtbg.org.cn  


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Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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