Assessing the importance of termites in global ecosystem processes and services

Termites are by far the most ecologically important decomposer animals in hot climates – forests, savannahs, grassland and deserts. They break down almost all types of dead plant material (e.g. soil, leaf litter, dung, wood). Wood decay in tropical rain forest is about 50% directly mediated by termites and drier environments generally have proportionally greater termite decay rates. Termites’ burrowing and tunnelling activities also strongly affect soils, as well as effects that are due to the direct ingestion off soil. Our data on the descriptive ecology of termites is good and growing. However, much of our knowledge of the impact of termites is anecdotal or based on data from pest species. In this talk Paul will discuss what we know and also what data are needed to assess the role of termites in ecosystem processes fully.

Paul Eggleton has been a researcher at the Natural History Museum, London since 1990. His research covers various aspects of the diversity and ecology of soil invertebrates, but his main speciality is termites.