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Describing termite assemblage structure in a Peruvian lowland tropical rain forest: a comparison of two alternative methods

Abstract

Termites are frequently dominant invertebrate decomposers and bioturbators in lowland tropical forests and therefore strongly influence ecosystem processes favouring soil stability, porosity and nutrient retention. In this study, we provide the first spatially replicated dataset on termite assemblage composition, abundance and biomass in a Peruvian rainforest by sampling six separate plots. In addition, two alternative sampling methods (transect method-TM and quadrat method-QM), providing termite species density data, were compared among the plots. The relationships between a range of environmental and spatial variables and species composition were examined using canonical correspondence analysis variation partitioning. We found that the TM captured a higher proportion of the known species in the site (82 %) compared with the QM (66 %). In addition, 56 % of the species sampled by TM were common between the plots while only 18 % of species overlapped using the QM. The QM may therefore potentially have undersampled the species pool. Environmental variables were shown to explain a larger proportion of the species patterns than the spatial variables with elevation, soil temperature and distance to the river being the most important. We discuss the impacts of the environmental and spatial variables on termite species composition.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by Natural Environment and Research Council grant NE/G018278/1 to PM and YM. PM is also supported by ARC grant FT110100457. We are grateful to Professor D. Bignell who provided useful insights and comments on the manuscript. We thank Explorers’ Inn Tambopata for hosting the research and Tambopata Research Centre, SERNANP and Ministerio de Agricultura for issuing the relevant permits. We are also grateful to our research assistants H. Siccos and H. Lopes. YM is supported by the Jackson Foundation.

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Correspondence to C. A. L. Dahlsjö.

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Dahlsjö, C.A.L., Parr, C.L., Malhi, Y. et al. Describing termite assemblage structure in a Peruvian lowland tropical rain forest: a comparison of two alternative methods. Insect. Soc. 62, 141–150 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-014-0385-z

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Keywords

  • Environmental variables
  • Quadrat method
  • Species composition
  • Spatial variables
  • Termitoidae
  • Transect method