Termite assemblages in dry tropical forests of Northeastern Brazil: Are termites bioindicators of environmental disturbances?

Arleu Barbosa Viana-Junior, Yana Teixeira Reis, Ana Paula Marques Costa, Vania Benicio Souza


Termites exhibit several characteristics that emphasize their potential as bioindicators of habitat quality appropriate to use in ecological monitoring, especially for the Caatinga biome, but little is known about this group in different vegetations of the semi-arid regions of Northeastern Brazil. The study was conducted in three areas under different levels of anthropogenic disturbance, in the High Backwoods of Sergipe State, aiming to verify whether the termite communities create different groups, associated with the conservation of the area, by analyzing richness, abundance, and composition. Twelve transects of 65 x 2 m were demarcated in each area, where each one consisted of five plots of 5 x 2 m, making it possible to collect termites in all potential nesting sites. Four trophic groups of termites were sampled: (I) wood-feeders, (II) soil-feeders, (III) soil/wood interface-feeders and (IV) litter foragers. As environmental variables, soil samples from each plot were collected for particle size analysis, moisture percentage, and soil pH determination. Overall, richness and abundance were significantly different in the three areas studied. Wood-feeders were the most dominant in number of species and number of encounters collected at all sites, whereas the composition of termites in each area, given the environmental disturbances, was distinct. The environmental variables reinforced that the areas are different in terms of their degree of conservation. The agreement between environmental variables and ecological data for species composition fortifies the potential of termites as biological indicators of habitat quality in areas of Caatinga, Northeastern Brazil. 


Bioindicator; environmental variables; Isoptera; Caatinga; trophic groups

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13102/sociobiology.v61i3.324-331


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