Termites and Soil Properties

  • John A. Holt
  • Michel Lepage


This chapter reviews the advances made in our knowledge of the effects of termites on the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils. Emphasis has been placed on more recent contributions, particularly those that explore new concepts in the ecology of termites and soils. There are sections dealing with the effects of termite activity on soil profile development, soil physical properties, soil chemical properties, soil microbiology and plant growth. The physical effects of termites on soils range from micromorphological to soil profile evolution and structure. Recent evidence points to the substantial positive influence of termites on soil hydraulic conductivity and infiltration rates. Their influence on organic matter decomposition and nutrient recycling rates are well recognized and in some landscapes termite mounds act as foci for nutrient redistribution. New information on the microbiology of termite mounds suggests that most are sites of diverse bacterial and fungal activity. Furthermore, the association between mound-building termites and the microbial population present in the structures has a synergistic effect on organic matter decomposition and hence nutrient cycling and availability. Examination of the effects of termite activity on plant production generally indicates a positive influence.

Key words

Termites soil profile morphology soil structure soil nutrients hydraulic conductivity infiltration nutrient cycling mound microorganisms plant growth. 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Holt
    • 1
  • Michel Lepage
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Tropical Plant Sciences, School of Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Laboratoire d’EcologieEcole Normale SupérieurParis CedexFrance

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