Functional diversity of termites across east Asia: linking pattern and process

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology

Main Supervisor:

Paul Eggleton

Life Sciences, NHM

Second Supervisor:

Seirian Sumner

Genetics, Evolution & Environment, UCL

Project Description:

Termites are the most important decomposer invertebrates in the tropics but the exact nature of their ecological impacts are poorly understood. This project will examine the functional diversity of termites in south-east Asia and relate that to large scale ecosystem processes.

It will collate, expand and analyse two datasets – (1) a well-established diversity data set, consisting of standardised samples comprising >200 transects from across East Asia (from Hong Kong to Sulawesi) and covering a range of management regimes, and (2) growing information about the effects of termites on decomposition, nutrient cycling and soil properties across the same area.

The student will explore the relationship between termite diversity and key ecosystem processes by: (a) backfilling field and experimental work where there are data gaps, (b) geospatial analysis of diversity data and (c) by the investigation of the relationship between the uncovered diversity patterns and ecosystem processes.

Policy Impact of Research:

Termites are vital for tropical ecosystems, but forest modification and biogeography strong affect their diversity.

This project will disentangle these two factors and relate them to changes in ecosystem processes, giving a vital perspective on the role of termites in ecosystems across the region.


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