Spatial and genetic distribution of a north American termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, across the landscape of Paris

Abstract

Urbanization often negatively impacts biological diversity. Some organisms, however, have traits that are preadapted to urban environments and thus may thrive. Reticulitermes flavipes is one such organism. Indigenous to the Eastern US, it has been introduced into multiple countries. In France, R. flavipes causes major damage to buildings. Although Paris is one of the country’s most infested cities, the factors determining R. flavipes’ distribution and propagation are poorly understood. Using data on termite occurrence, termite genetics, and environmental variables, our study aims to identify factors that explain the distribution and spread of R. flavipes within Paris. First, we explored the association between several environmental variables and the termite’s distribution pattern in Paris; since 2000, a total of 2106 infestations have been recorded. Second, we inferred termite population and colony genetic structure at 66 sample locations using 9 microsatellite loci. Third, we used least-cost models and partial Mantel tests to study the effects of environmental variables on the termite’s population genetic structure. Our analyses revealed that building-related variables were significantly associated with termite infestations and could thus help explain the termite’s spatial distribution pattern. Furthermore, railway networks also explain termite propagation and genetic patterns. Additionally, we found that the termite’s spread is likely driven by budding dispersal, which may be constrained by buildings and roads. Even if budding dispersal could facilitate R. flavipes’ spread in urban areas, it cannot explain the termite’s distribution in Paris all on its own. Indeed, termite propagation seems to be significantly driven by anthropogenic activities.

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Acknowledgements

This study is part of G. Baudouin’s PhD research. We are grateful to Simon Dupont for providing samples. We are also grateful to Tony Dié and Matthieu Vachon of Pharmabois for providing some of the 2016 samples. We wish to thank Claude Marès and Sylvain Genty of Paris City Hall for sharing their knowledge about termite in Paris. We also wish to thank J. Pearce for her English editing services, Dominique Andrieu for his comments on the first draft of the manuscript, and Stephanie Bankhead-Dronnet and Christelle Suppo for their helpful comments. This work was funded by a contract (to A-G Bagnères) that was established between the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the city of Paris (Direction du Logement et de l’Habitat).

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Correspondence to Franck Dedeine.

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Baudouin, G., Bech, N., Bagnères, AG. et al. Spatial and genetic distribution of a north American termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, across the landscape of Paris. Urban Ecosyst 21, 751–764 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-018-0747-9

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Keywords

  • Urban pest
  • Landscape genetics
  • Human-mediated dispersal
  • Biological invasions
  • Breeding structure