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Influence of regions, land uses and soil properties on termite and ant communities in agricultural landscapes of the Colombian Llanos

Abstract : Ants and termites, as soil engineers, provide many ecosystem services that can be important for the sustainability of agriculture. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of land use on ant and termite communities in Colombian savanna landscapes, and to assess whether this impact is associated with the modification of soil physical and chemical properties. Ants and termites were sampled in five different agricultural and semi-natural systems across three regions of the 3 eastern Colombian Llanos: 1) annual crops (maize, soy and rice), 2) rubber plantations, 3) oil palm plantations, 4) improved pastures and 5) semi-natural savannas. A total of 91 ant and 16 termite species were collected. Multivariate analysis revealed that termite communities significantly differed among land uses, but not between regions. Ant communities differed between regions and land uses. Based on between group analyses of termite communities, three groups of land use can be distinguished: one formed by semi-natural savannas and improved pastures, the second by oil palm plantations and annual crops and the third by rubber plantations. General linear models applied separately to each species found 19 significant associations of soil physical or chemical properties, land uses or regions with 15 ant species and 14 significant associations with 6 termite species. Taken together, there is a strong association between land use and ant or termite communities and this influence is likely due to changes in ant and termite habitats resulting from agricultural practices such as tillage, fertilization, and lime addition. These results suggest that annual crops are the most detrimental land use for termites and ants, because their communities are highly sensitive to vegetation cover and agricultural practices such as tillage. Maintaining a high diversity of soil engineers and the ecosystem services they provide likely depends on the maintenance of natural ecosystems in the landscape and the adoption of practices that reduce impacts on soil ecosystem engineers when native ecosystems have been transformed into agricultural systems.
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Catalina Sanabria, Florence Dubs, Patrick Lavelle, Steven J. Fonte, Sébastien Barot. Influence of regions, land uses and soil properties on termite and ant communities in agricultural landscapes of the Colombian Llanos. European Journal of Soil Biology, Elsevier, 2016, 74, pp.81-92. ⟨10.1016/j.ejsobi.2016.03.008⟩. ⟨hal-01303702⟩

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