The influence of termites, other fauna and some climatic factors on the decomposition of an indigenous and an exotic wood species in a moist semi-deciduous forest zone of Ghana

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The role of termites, other fauna and environmental factors as a measure of decomposition rates of Cola gigantea and Populus tremuloides Michx (Aspen) were determined on twelve (12) plots in the Bobiri forest reserve, a near primary forest near Kumasi in the Ashanti region. Each plot measured 100 m x 6 m. Two wood samples, C. gigantea (indigenous wood species) and Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) an exotic wood species were used for the study. Exclusion experiments with mesh bags of two different mesh sizes: 0.03 mm and 5 mm were used to exclude and include macro fauna and termites respectively. The single-exponential model was used to determine decomposition rates. The study identified termites within three genera; Macrotermes, Microtermes and Ancistrotermes all belonging to the sub-family Macrotermitinae which feed on wood and litter. Other fauna identified were earthworms, arthropods, spiders, wood louse, centipedes, millipedes and ants. Aspen wood in the large as well as small mesh bags decomposed about 3.4 and 3 times faster than C. gigantea wood in the large as well as small mesh bags respectively. Hence the ‘the home field advantage’ theory is not always true. In addition, the decomposition rate of Aspen and C. gigantea wood in the large mesh bags were about 4.6 and 4 times faster than the decomposition rate of Aspen and C. gigantea wood in the small mesh bags respectively. The decomposition rate of the C. gigantea and Aspen wood in the large as well as small diameter mesh bags decreased with increasing maximum temperature, with the optimum range being 31 to 33°C but it increased with increasing cumulative rainfall. Precipitation rates greatly affect decomposition than temperature. Macro and meso fauna, particularly termites, contributed significantly to nutrient cycling and CO2 emission.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Theoretical and Applied Biology, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science, 2014