A lab-based study of temperate forest termite impacts on plant and wood-rot fungal growth


Author/Creator ORCID




Towson University. Department of Biological Sciences


Citation of Original Publication




The ecological role of temperate subterranean termites, such as Reticulitermes flavipes is largely unknown because of their cryptic foraging activities. This is also due to the fact that termites are primarily perceived as a pest, which causes substantial damage to man-made wooden structures that costs the United States over a billion dollars annually in prevention and repair. This has resulted in most resources being directed toward developing an understanding of how to eliminate termite colonies. Yet, temperate subterranean termites have a potentially important ecological role. We investigated the ecological role of R. flavipes in the context of plant productivity, soil microbiome interactions, and wood-rot fungal interactions. We demonstrated that the presence of R. flavipes in soil increased plant productivity, and that antifungal properties of their saliva and gut can affect the growth of two wood-rot fungi Gloeophyllum trabeum and Phanerochaete chrysosporium. These laboratory results should motivate future research on how we understand the role of temperate subterranean termites in forest nutrient cycling and decomposer community structure.