a1 Queen Mary, University of London, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, London, UK
a2 Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia Civil, Núcleo de Estruturas de Madeira, Avenida do Brasil, 101, 1700-066 Lisboa, Portugal
Subterranean termites (Reticulitermes grassei) were surveyed over successive seasons in a managed eucalyptus plantation in southeastern Portugal for 26 months. Termite activity in seven diameter categories of lying dead wood was investigated by a modified line intersection method (LIS). Each item sampled was inspected and assessed for termite attack and for general (i.e. fungal) decay status using standard protocols. Line intersection is quantitative to the extent that it can link foraging and decay parameters to woody biovolume. It was found that termites selected items with larger diameter, the observed trend showing an exponential character with greater termite attack as diameter increased. Attack by termites was positively associated with prior decay by fungi. A clear positive relationship was shown between rainfall and total woody biovolume containing live termites, underlining the importance of moisture for termite activity. Subterranean termites appeared to be important wood decomposers in the woodland studied, with an average of 30% of lying dead wood branches showing signs of termite attack.
(Accepted February 15 2008)
(Online publication July 29 2008)