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Title Termites as key elements in soil restoration (Zaï system, Burkina Faso)

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Short title Termites and soil restoration

Author(s) Kaiser, D.(1); Konaté, S.(2); Linsenmair, K.E.(1)

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Institution(s) (1) Departement of Tropical Biology and Animal Ecology, University of Würzburg, Germany; (2) LAMTO Ecological Station, University of Abobo-Adjamé, Côte d'Ivoire

Keywords Zaï system; traditional soil restoration; fungus-growing termites; soil turnover; water infiltration

Abstract A temporal cross-section of the traditional rehabilitation system Zaï was studied in northern Burkina Faso (Ouahigouya, 13°32'N, -2°22'E, Sub-Sahel, precipitation 400-600 mm/a) to determine the role of termites in soil restoration. The aims were a) to characterize the activity of termites in the main succession stages of the Zaï system (degraded soil, millet field, 13 yrs and 23 yrs old Zaï-forest), b) to assess the effect of the foraging holes on soil water infiltration and c) to quantify soil turnover (bioturbation) during foraging via soil "sheetings".
In each of the four study sites, 9 experimental plots, each comprising four sub-quadrates of 1 m2, were used to attract termites with different, locally available organic materials (Aristida kerstingii hay, Bombax costatum wooden blocks, compost and a control without any organic amendment) and to stimulate their foraging activity. After four weeks a) all sheeting soil was collected, air dried and separately weighed according to the different termite genera and b) the openings of foraging holes (macropores) were counted and their diameter measured. Water infiltration was measured in selected quadrates with double ring infiltrometers.
The comparison between the different plots and sites revealed hay as the most attractive bait in all stages of succession. The main soil bioturbators were fungus growing termites (Odontotermes, Macrotermes). The mass of soil bioturbated increased strongly from the degraded, barren towards the reforested site. Odontotermes was the decisive primary physical ecosystem engineer in the Za? system. The enormous increase in surface pore space had a significant effect on the water infiltration rate.
Our experiments show clearly that termite activity is a decisive component in the restoration process and that directing and inducting this activity will be a promising tool for optimizing the zaï practice

Congress Topic Land use, impact and value

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Ref. No. 560