Effect of Desert Termites on Herbage and Litter in a Shortgrass Ecosystem in West Texas
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CitationBodine, M. C., & Ueckert, D. N. (1975). Effect of desert termites on herbage and litter in a shortgrass ecosystem in west Texas. Journal of Range Management, 28(5), 353-358.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalJournal of Range Management
AbstractThe desert termite, Gnathamitermes tubiformans, is an important insect on rangelands in the southwestern United States. Population densities of this insect averaged 2139/m2 in the upper 30 cm of soil in a shortgrass community in West Texas over a 3-year period and reached a peak of 9127/m2 The live biomass of termites averaged 5.2 g/m2 and reached a peak of 22.21 g/m2. In a laboratory study, desert termite workers consumed 2.4% of their live body weight/day of dry buffalograss leaves. In field studies, control of desert termites with insecticide resulted in a 22% increase in standing crop of grass and a 50% increase in litter accumulation by the end of the second growing season after control was initiated. Termite-free plots had almost three times more litter than termite-infested plots after four growing seasons. Desert termites accounted for 55% of the disappearance of litter from the soil surface. Ranchers can expect higher population densities of desert termites and hence greater consumption of forage and litter during wet years.