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Title Multi-scale distribution patterns of termite mounds in central Namibia - implications for ecosystem functioning

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Short title Distribution patterns of termite mounds

Author(s) Grohmann, C.(1); Oldeland, J.(2); Petersen, A.(3); Gröngröft, A.(3); Linsenmair, K.E.(1)

Presenting author Grohmann, C.

Institution(s) (1) University of Würzburg, Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Germany; (2) University of Hamburg, Department of Biology, Germany; (3) University of Hamburg, Institute of Soil Science, Germany

Keywords spatial point patterns; pair correlation function; ecosystem engineers; termites; savannah

Abstract Termites are known as ecosystem engineers as they play a major role in decomposition processes, nutrient cycling and soil water infiltration. Their local impact on ecosystem functioning depends on their distribution in space (e.g. clumped, random or regular). The distribution pattern in turn may vary with the scale and can differ within different size classes of termite mounds. Our objective was to analyse the distribution of Macrotermes michaelseni (Sjöstedt, 1914) mounds using a multi-scale approach and to infer its effects on the ecosystem from the results.
The study took place in central Namibia at two BIOTA observatories (Toggekry and Otjiamongombe). Position and size of all termite mounds build by M. michaelseni were recorded in the field. Spatial patterns were analysed using Clark-Evans nearest neighbour analysis and the pair correlation function.
Small mounds were observed to have a clumped dispersion. Large mounds were regularly distributed on a small scale and clumped on a large scale. The patchy distribution of adequate sites for the founding colonies may be responsible for the clumped distribution of small mounds, while intraspecific competition may govern the regular distribution of older mounds. On larger scales, ecosystem variability outcompetes the effects of competition between colonies.
The necessity to analyse spatial patterns of termite mounds across multiple scales is discussed. In this context, age and state of mounds should be taken into account to understand the role of termites for ecosystem functioning. An outlook on further research is given.

Congress Topic Process Analysis

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Ref. No. 558