Termites and litter type regulate root decomposition

Photo: Per Harald Olsen/AfricanBioServices

A new publication from Stuart W. Smith has been accepted. Co-authors are James D. M. Speed, John Bukombe, Shombe N. Hassan, Richard D. Lyamuya, Philipo Jacob Mtweve, Anders Sundsdal and Bente J. Graae.

In summary, we found that root decomposition in savannas depends on the interaction between litter type and termites rather than the direct influence of fire and large mammalian herbivores. Termites were not generalist decomposers of root litter. Termites root litter selectivity depends on plant species identity, which is an important contributor to spatial heterogeneity in savanna nutrient cycling. In African savannas, multiple drivers can determine herbaceous species composition; for instance, herbaceous communities differed under tree canopies compared to outside them. Thus, similarly to land-use, tree canopies can indirectly influence the quality of root litter.

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Litter type and termites regulate root decomposition across contrasting savanna land-uses (PDF)