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Trophic controls delaying foraging by termites: reasons for the ground being brown?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2009

O. DeSouza*
Departamento de Biologia Animal, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, 36570-000 Viçosa MGBrazil Pós-graduação em Entomologia, Depto Biologia Animal, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, 36570-000 Viçosa MGBrazil
A.P.A. Araújo
Pós-graduação em Entomologia, Depto Biologia Animal, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, 36570-000 Viçosa MGBrazil
R. Reis-Jr
Departamento de Biologia Geral, Universidade Estadual de Montes Claros, CP 126, 39401-089 Montes Claros, MGBrazil
*Author for correspondence Fax: +55 31 3899 4012 E-mail:


Why is the ground brown, when detritivores and decomposers have the numbers and ability to speed up the turnover of dark-coloured soil organic carbon? We consider this soil analogue to the ‘green world’ hypothesis measuring in the field how fast termites occupied cellulosic baits of varying quantity and quality and how predation risks by ants affect such encounters. Single baits with ants were occupied by termites later than triple baits without ants, implying that termites may spend longer searching for suitable food than feeding on it, thereby delaying decomposition rates of both chosen and neglected items. Because termites' feeding speeds up dissimilation of polymers by decomposers, such results may imply that bottom-up and top-down forces, ultimately, impair carbon processing and release from soil. We argue that the ground is brown partly because of delays imposed upon termites' use of resources by bottom-up and top-down forces.

Research Paper
Copyright © 2009 Cambridge University Press

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