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Microb Ecol. 2004 Aug;48(2):191-9. Epub 2004 Jun 10.

Bacterial density and community structure associated with aggregate size fractions of soil-feeding termite mounds.

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IBIS, Laboratoire d'Ecologie Microbienne des Sols Tropicaux, IRD (ex ORSTOM), BP 1386, Dakar, Sénégal.


The building and foraging activities of termites are known to modify soil characteristics such as the heterogeneity. In tropical savannas the impact of the activity of soil-feeding termites ( Cubitermes niokoloensis) has been shown to affect the properties of the soil at the aggregate level by creating new soil microenvironments (aggregate size fractions) [13]. These changes were investigated in greater depth by looking at the microbial density (AODC) and the genetic structure (automated rRNA intergenic spacer analysis: ARISA) of the communities in the different aggregate size fractions (i.e., coarse sand, fine sand, coarse silt, fine silt, and dispersible clays) separated from compartments (internal and external wall) of three Cubitermes niokoloensis mounds. The bacterial density of the mounds was significantly higher (1.5 to 3 times) than that of the surrounding soil. Within the aggregate size fractions, the termite building activity resulted in a significant increase in bacterial density within the coarser fractions (>20 mum). Multivariate analysis of the ARISA profiles revealed that the bacterial genetic structures of unfractionated soil and soil aggregate size fractions of the three mounds was noticeably different from the savanna soil used as a reference. Moreover, the microbial community associated with the different microenvironments in the three termite mounds revealed three distinct clusters formed by the aggregate size fractions of each mound. Except for the 2-20 mum fraction, these results suggest that the mound microbial genetic structure is more dependent upon microbial pool affiliation (the termite mound) than on the soil location (aggregate size fraction). The causes of the specificity of the microbial community structure of termite mound aggregate size fractions are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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