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Termites mitigate the effects of drought in tropical rainforest

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Yit Arn TehORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2019.

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Termites perform key ecological functions in tropical ecosystems, are strongly affected by variation in rainfall, and respond negatively to habitat disturbance. However, it is not known how the projected increase in frequency and severity of droughts in tropical rainforests will alter termite communities and the maintenance of ecosystem processes. Using a large-scale termite suppression experiment, we found that termite activity and abundance increased during drought in a Bornean forest. This increase resulted in accelerated litter decomposition, elevated soil moisture, greater soil nutrient heterogeneity, and higher seedling survival rates during the extreme El Niño drought of 2015–2016. Our work shows how an invertebrate group enhances ecosystem resistance to drought, providing evidence that the dual stressors of climate change and anthropogenic shifts in biotic communities will have various negative consequences for the maintenance of rainforest ecosystems.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ashton LA, Griffiths HM, Parr CL, Evans TA, Didham RK, Hasan F, Teh YA, Tin HS, Vairappan CS, Eggleton P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science

Year: 2019

Volume: 363

Issue: 6423

Pages: 174-177

Print publication date: 11/01/2019

Acceptance date: 06/12/2018

Date deposited: 13/06/2019

ISSN (print): 0036-8075

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9203

Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


DOI: 10.1126/science.aau9565


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