Fruitful Savannahs: Termites enrich the soil in East Africa

Alison Brody from the University of Vermont Vertebrate fertilizer is not the only source of nutrients in the soils of East African savannahs, at least according to a study recently published in the journal Ecology. Alison Brody from the University of Vermont and colleagues found that termites actually had more of an effect on the fruiting success of Acacia trees in Kenya than did dung and urine deposition from ungulate herbivores, such as zebras and gazelles. The underground termite mounds, covered in vegetation and ranging from 5-10 meters in size, increased nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil—significantly more so than ungulates typically provided. In this edition of Field Talk, Brody talks about the symbiotic relationships these Acacia trees have with vertebrates and invertebrates, her plans for future research on the effects of cattle grazing on this land and her experiences in the field with the Kenya Long-term Exclosure Experiment.

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