14 Mar 2023
 | 14 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Assessing CO2 and CH4 fluxes from mounds of African fungus-growing termites

Matti Räsänen, Risto Vesala, Petri Rönnholm, Laura Arppe, Petra Manninen, Markus Jylhä, Jouko Rikkinen, Petri Pellikka, and Janne Rinne

Abstract. Termites play an essential role in decomposing dead plant material in tropical ecosystems and are thus major sources of gaseous C emissions in many environments. In African savannas, fungus-growing termites are among the ecologically most influential termite species. We studied the gas exchange from mounds of two closely related fungus-growing species (Macrotermes subhyalinus and M. michaelseni, respectively) in shaded and open habitats together with soil fluxes around the mounds. The fluxes from active termite mounds varied from 116 to 2105 mg CO2-C m-2 h-1 for CO2 and from 0.06 to 3.66 mg CH4-C m-2 h-1 for CH4 fluxes. Mound CO2 fluxes varied seasonally with a 64 % decrease and 35 % increase in the fluxes from dry to wet season at the open grassland and shaded bushland sites, respectively. During the wet season, the CO2 fluxes were significantly correlated with termite mound volume. The diurnal measurements from two M. michaelseni mounds suggest that the gas fluxes peak during daytime and midnight supporting the previously presented model of thermally driven air circulation inside the mound and possibly enhanced ventilation during the night by the opening of foraging routes. The stability of the mound gas fluxes over diurnal and annual scales coincides with the constant nature of the nest internal gas and thermal environment that guarantees continuously favorable conditions for the fungal symbiont. Soil fluxes of both CO2 and CH4 were enhanced at up to 2 m distance from the mounds compared to the local soil respiration, indicating that, in addition to mound ventilation structures, a small proportion of the produced metabolic gases leave the nest also via surrounding soils.

Matti Räsänen et al.

Status: open (until 25 Apr 2023)

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Matti Räsänen et al.

Data sets

Dataset for "Influence of termite mound structure and habitat on the mound CO2 and CH4 fluxes for fungus-growing termites" Matti Räsänen, Risto Vesala, Petri Rönnholm, Laura Arppe, Petra Manninen, Markus Jylhä, Jouko Rikkinen, Petri Pellikka, and Janne Rinne

Matti Räsänen et al.


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Short summary
Fungus-growing termites recycle large part of dead plant material in African savannas and are significant sources of greenhouse gases. We measured CO2 and CH4 fluxes from their mounds and surrounding soils at open and closed habitats. The fluxes scale with mound volume. The results show that emissions from mounds of fungus-growing termites are more stable than those from other termites. The soil fluxes around the mound are affected by the termite colonies up to 2 m distance from the mound.