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I. Deblauwe, L. Dibog, A. Missoup, J. Dupain, L. Van Elsacker, W. Dekoninck, D. Bonte and F. Hendrickx (2007)

Spatial scales affecting termite diversity in tropical lowland rainforest: a case study in southeast Cameroon

African Journal of Ecology, 46(1):5-18.

Termites play a prominent role in the decomposer food web as 'ecosystem engineers'. However, the effect of spatial scales on termite assemblages has, to date, been poorly studied. Here, we evaluate the contribution of two spatial levels [transects (100 m x 2 m) and sections within transects (5 m x 2 m)] on the local termite assemblage of a continuous mixed secondary lowland rainforest in southeast Cameroon. Standardized 100 m x 2 m transects were run in five vegetation types to cover more of the heterogeneity of this forest. The additive partitioning of the species richness of all species, soil- and wood-feeder species was statistically tested with sample-based randomization. The average species richness per transect (61) was the highest ever recorded. The section scale significantly influenced the observed species richness of all groups. This suggests that physical complexity and heterogeneity exist on a small scale within each transect and create a variety of microhabitats for different termites. Still, soil-feeder species were less influenced by this scale than wood-feeder species. Although different vegetation types were sampled, transect scale did not enhance observed termite species diversity. Overall, as a wide variety and high density of microhabitats is inherent to large primary or regenerating forests, conservation programmes should focus on interconnecting large tropical rainforest blocks in Central Africa to maintain biodiversity hot spots of termites and optimal ecosystem functioning.

Deblauwe, Isra Dibog, Luc Missoup, Alain D. Dupain, Jef Van Elsacker, Linda Dekoninck, Wouter Bonte, Dries Hendrickx, Frederik

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