Termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of African savanna tree species

Andrew B. Davies, Claire A. Baldeck, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aim: Termite mounds form small islands of enhanced water and soil nutrient availability on otherwise dry and nutrient-poor hill crests, which can have important impacts on the plant community. However, the way in which termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of particular tree species across broad savanna landscapes is poorly understood. We aimed to understand the nature and extent of the relationship between termite mounds and key woody savanna species at landscape scales through the use of airborne remote sensing. Location: Kruger National Park, South Africa. Methods: We mapped 9894 termite mounds and 666,679 savanna trees from 15 species across two landscapes with contrasting rainfall regimes using airborne imaging spectroscopy and LiDAR data. We then examined changes in tree species densities and community composition with respect to distance from termite mounds. Results: In both landscapes, termite mounds reduced overall tree densities over distances up to 10 m from mound centres. However, the effect of termite mounds on tree density differed among species, with some species, typically associated with lowland and riparian habitats, showing increased density near termite mounds. Indeed, changes in overall tree community composition revealed that termite mounds harbour tree communities similar to lowland communities, with this similarity decreasing with increased distance from the nearest mound. Termite effects were more pronounced in the savanna landscape receiving higher annual rainfall, whereas a greater percentage of the landscape was affected in the drier landscape due to higher mound densities. Main conclusions: Termite mounds mediate the spatial distribution of tree species in savanna landscapes, increasing the abundance of tree species typically associated with lowland habitats. This contributes to the spatial heterogeneity of savanna vegetation within landscapes and the maintenance of savanna biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-313
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

termite mounds
termite
savanna
savannas
spatial distribution
lowlands
community composition
rain
rainfall
habitats
Isoptera
habitat
nutrient availability
soil nutrients
remote sensing
soil nutrient
spectroscopy
plant communities
national parks
South Africa

Keywords

  • Macrotermes
  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory
  • Catena
  • Hyperspectral
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Kruger National Park
  • LiDAR
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Tree diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

Cite this

Termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of African savanna tree species. / Davies, Andrew B.; Baldeck, Claire A.; Asner, Gregory P.

In: Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 43, No. 2, 01.02.2016, p. 301-313.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Davies, Andrew B. ; Baldeck, Claire A. ; Asner, Gregory P. / Termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of African savanna tree species. In: Journal of Biogeography. 2016 ; Vol. 43, No. 2. pp. 301-313.
@article{cb27f725dfa34f968e402d1119e541e7,
title = "Termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of African savanna tree species",
abstract = "Aim: Termite mounds form small islands of enhanced water and soil nutrient availability on otherwise dry and nutrient-poor hill crests, which can have important impacts on the plant community. However, the way in which termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of particular tree species across broad savanna landscapes is poorly understood. We aimed to understand the nature and extent of the relationship between termite mounds and key woody savanna species at landscape scales through the use of airborne remote sensing. Location: Kruger National Park, South Africa. Methods: We mapped 9894 termite mounds and 666,679 savanna trees from 15 species across two landscapes with contrasting rainfall regimes using airborne imaging spectroscopy and LiDAR data. We then examined changes in tree species densities and community composition with respect to distance from termite mounds. Results: In both landscapes, termite mounds reduced overall tree densities over distances up to 10 m from mound centres. However, the effect of termite mounds on tree density differed among species, with some species, typically associated with lowland and riparian habitats, showing increased density near termite mounds. Indeed, changes in overall tree community composition revealed that termite mounds harbour tree communities similar to lowland communities, with this similarity decreasing with increased distance from the nearest mound. Termite effects were more pronounced in the savanna landscape receiving higher annual rainfall, whereas a greater percentage of the landscape was affected in the drier landscape due to higher mound densities. Main conclusions: Termite mounds mediate the spatial distribution of tree species in savanna landscapes, increasing the abundance of tree species typically associated with lowland habitats. This contributes to the spatial heterogeneity of savanna vegetation within landscapes and the maintenance of savanna biodiversity.",
keywords = "Macrotermes, Carnegie Airborne Observatory, Catena, Hyperspectral, Imaging spectroscopy, Kruger National Park, LiDAR, Spatial heterogeneity, Tree diversity",
author = "Davies, {Andrew B.} and Baldeck, {Claire A.} and Asner, {Gregory P.}",
year = "2016",
month = "2",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1111/jbi.12633",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "43",
pages = "301--313",
journal = "Journal of Biogeography",
issn = "0305-0270",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of African savanna tree species

AU - Davies, Andrew B.

AU - Baldeck, Claire A.

AU - Asner, Gregory P.

PY - 2016/2/1

Y1 - 2016/2/1

N2 - Aim: Termite mounds form small islands of enhanced water and soil nutrient availability on otherwise dry and nutrient-poor hill crests, which can have important impacts on the plant community. However, the way in which termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of particular tree species across broad savanna landscapes is poorly understood. We aimed to understand the nature and extent of the relationship between termite mounds and key woody savanna species at landscape scales through the use of airborne remote sensing. Location: Kruger National Park, South Africa. Methods: We mapped 9894 termite mounds and 666,679 savanna trees from 15 species across two landscapes with contrasting rainfall regimes using airborne imaging spectroscopy and LiDAR data. We then examined changes in tree species densities and community composition with respect to distance from termite mounds. Results: In both landscapes, termite mounds reduced overall tree densities over distances up to 10 m from mound centres. However, the effect of termite mounds on tree density differed among species, with some species, typically associated with lowland and riparian habitats, showing increased density near termite mounds. Indeed, changes in overall tree community composition revealed that termite mounds harbour tree communities similar to lowland communities, with this similarity decreasing with increased distance from the nearest mound. Termite effects were more pronounced in the savanna landscape receiving higher annual rainfall, whereas a greater percentage of the landscape was affected in the drier landscape due to higher mound densities. Main conclusions: Termite mounds mediate the spatial distribution of tree species in savanna landscapes, increasing the abundance of tree species typically associated with lowland habitats. This contributes to the spatial heterogeneity of savanna vegetation within landscapes and the maintenance of savanna biodiversity.

AB - Aim: Termite mounds form small islands of enhanced water and soil nutrient availability on otherwise dry and nutrient-poor hill crests, which can have important impacts on the plant community. However, the way in which termite mounds alter the spatial distribution of particular tree species across broad savanna landscapes is poorly understood. We aimed to understand the nature and extent of the relationship between termite mounds and key woody savanna species at landscape scales through the use of airborne remote sensing. Location: Kruger National Park, South Africa. Methods: We mapped 9894 termite mounds and 666,679 savanna trees from 15 species across two landscapes with contrasting rainfall regimes using airborne imaging spectroscopy and LiDAR data. We then examined changes in tree species densities and community composition with respect to distance from termite mounds. Results: In both landscapes, termite mounds reduced overall tree densities over distances up to 10 m from mound centres. However, the effect of termite mounds on tree density differed among species, with some species, typically associated with lowland and riparian habitats, showing increased density near termite mounds. Indeed, changes in overall tree community composition revealed that termite mounds harbour tree communities similar to lowland communities, with this similarity decreasing with increased distance from the nearest mound. Termite effects were more pronounced in the savanna landscape receiving higher annual rainfall, whereas a greater percentage of the landscape was affected in the drier landscape due to higher mound densities. Main conclusions: Termite mounds mediate the spatial distribution of tree species in savanna landscapes, increasing the abundance of tree species typically associated with lowland habitats. This contributes to the spatial heterogeneity of savanna vegetation within landscapes and the maintenance of savanna biodiversity.

KW - Macrotermes

KW - Carnegie Airborne Observatory

KW - Catena

KW - Hyperspectral

KW - Imaging spectroscopy

KW - Kruger National Park

KW - LiDAR

KW - Spatial heterogeneity

KW - Tree diversity

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84954244393&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84954244393&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/jbi.12633

DO - 10.1111/jbi.12633

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84954244393

VL - 43

SP - 301

EP - 313

JO - Journal of Biogeography

JF - Journal of Biogeography

SN - 0305-0270

IS - 2

ER -