Campos de murundus (earthmound fields) are common throughout the cerrado (savanna) in Brazil. They have a clearly defined distribution particularly where they are associated with ground water. There is a distinctive woody vegetation on the discrete mounds contrasting with surrounding grass-covered depressions.
After a reconnaissance ground and air-photograph survey of the nature and distribution of mounds within the Federal District, four one-hectare plots were chosen for detailed study within the ecological reserve of the University of Brasília. Measurements were made of the size, shape and frequency of mounds. Numbers varied from 26 to 61 ha-1 with a uniform distribution occupying 10–50% of the plots. Heights ranged from 0.05 to over 2 m. The generally semi-elliptical shape in ground plan had an average size of 7 by 5.5 m with no evidence of preferred orientation although water scouring from runoff partly influences the morphology. Volumes varied from 0.01 m3 to 141.5 m3. The soils of the murundus differed from those of surrounding depressions by being better drained, with bright colours and strong cohesive structures; they were more argillic with lower base saturation and pH values. Such sites favour colonization both by cerrado plants and by termites. A classification of the murundus is postulated. Although this paper does not consider the origins of murundus, they appear to relate more closely to drainage and differential erosion than to termite activity.