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Insects 2019, 10(4), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects10040103

Phylogenetic Community Structure and Niche Differentiation in Termites of the Tropical Dry Forests of Colombia

1
Departamento de Química y Biología, Universidad del Norte, Kilómetro 5 Antigua vía Puerto Colombia, 081007-Puerto Colombia, Colombia
2
Evolutionary Biology & Ecology, University of Freiburg, Hauptstrasse 1, 79104-Freiburg, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 December 2018 / Revised: 3 April 2019 / Accepted: 8 April 2019 / Published: 10 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology of Termites)
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Abstract

The mechanisms that structure species communities are still debated. We addressed this question for termite assemblages from tropical dry forests in Colombia. These forests are endangered and poorly understood ecosystems and termites are important ecosystem engineers in the tropics. Using biodiversity and environmental data, combined with phylogenetic community analyses, trait mapping, and stable isotopes studies, we investigated the termite community composition of three protected dry forests in Colombia. Our data suggest that the structuring mechanisms differed between sites. Phylogenetic overdispersion of termite assemblages correlated with decreasing rainfall and elevation and increasing temperature. Food niche traits—classified as feeding groups and quantified by δ15N‰ and δ13C‰ isotope signatures—were phylogenetically conserved. Hence, the overdispersion pattern implies increasing interspecific competition with decreasing drier and warmer conditions, which is also supported by fewer species occurring at the driest site. Our results are in line with a hypothesis that decreased biomass production limits resource availability for termites, which leads to competition. Along with this comes a diet shift: termites from drier plots had higher δ13C signatures, reflecting higher δ13C values in the litter and more C4 plants. Our study shows how a phylogenetic community approach combined with trait analyses can contribute to gaining the first insights into mechanisms structuring whole termite assemblages. View Full-Text
Keywords: community assembly; competition; isotopes; phylogenetic community; termites; trait mapping; tropical dry-forest; Colombia community assembly; competition; isotopes; phylogenetic community; termites; trait mapping; tropical dry-forest; Colombia
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Casalla Daza, R.; Korb, J. Phylogenetic Community Structure and Niche Differentiation in Termites of the Tropical Dry Forests of Colombia. Insects 2019, 10, 103.

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