Woodland - Winter 2019 - 12

Seedlings
Continued

HARD-WORKING TERMITES CRUCIAL TO FOREST,
WETLAND ECOSYSTEMS
SOURCE: SOIL SCIENCE SOCIETY OF AMERICA

Termites are unwelcome in your home. They can cause
structural damage to the wood in frames, floors and other
materials. It's nothing personal, though. They are really just
looking for food sources.
But, outside, in the natural environment, termites are part
of an entire ecological system. Their role is to help turn dead
trees into valuable organic matter.
And, a recent study showed that termite activity in the
soils of wetlands can help improve soil structure and nutrient
content.
To study this question, Deborah S. Page-Dumroese and
her colleagues researched various types of bedding systems
in eastern South Carolina. "Microorganisms and termites are
the primary wood decay agents in forests of southeastern
United States," says Page-Dumroese. Previous research
showed that raised planting beds on poorly-drained soils
greatly improve the survival and growth of planted seedlings.
Page-Dumroese's research team showed that bedding in
wetlands could be a good management practice, too.
Page-Dumroese is a scientist with the USDA Forest
Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, in Idaho. She
worked with team members in Michigan and South Carolina.
The wetlands are part of the forest service. "There are many
forested wetlands within national forests - particularly in the
north and southeast" says Page-Dumroese. "But, there are
some in the mountainous west as well." 
The decay of dead trees (and any plant product) produces
organic matter. And, this organic matter can increase
crucial soil carbon content. All living things are made of
carbon, and it is important to keep carbon in the soil (carbon
sequestration) because it helps hold and filter water, reduces
nutrient leaching, and improves forest health.
Researchers created beds in the study area using tractors.
This mixed surface organic debris from the wetland floor
with the mineral soil. They created beds of various height for
study. Raised planting beds improve soil aeration, raise soil
temperature, and increase nutrient availability.
To measure the activity of microbes and termites, the
team placed wooden stakes into various sized beds. They
chose stakes made of aspen as well as loblolly pine, both
prevalent trees in eastern South Carolina. They compared the
decomposition of the stakes over 23 months, in beds that
ranged from flat to about 30 cm (12 inches).

12 WOODLAND * Winter 2019

Indeed, the team found many differences in
decomposition between stake species and bedding
height. Termites damaged or consumed 45%
of aspen stakes in double height beds. This is
compared to only 11% of the loblolly pine stakes.
Microbial decay of both types of stakes increased
with greater bedding heights.
They also determined that microbial
decomposition of both aspen and pine stakes was
greatest near the soil surface. This was independent
of bed height.
Interestingly, the study site, which had poorly
drained soils, had no termite activity at the beginning
of the study. Termites were able to thrive when the



Woodland - Winter 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Woodland - Winter 2019

OVERSTORY
FORESTS AND FAMILIES
FOREST INTERACTIONS Seedlings
2019 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year
Giving Back for the Forests of Tomorrow
Policies And Partnerships Go Hand In Hand For Strong Forests
TOOLS AND RESOURCES
Woodland - Winter 2019 - Intro
Woodland - Winter 2019 - cover1
Woodland - Winter 2019 - cover2
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 3
Woodland - Winter 2019 - OVERSTORY
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 5
Woodland - Winter 2019 - FORESTS AND FAMILIES
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 7
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 8
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 9
Woodland - Winter 2019 - FOREST INTERACTIONS Seedlings
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 11
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 12
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 13
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 14
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 15
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 16
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 17
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 18
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 19
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 2019 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 21
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 22
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 23
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 24
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 25
Woodland - Winter 2019 - Giving Back for the Forests of Tomorrow
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 27
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 28
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 29
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 30
Woodland - Winter 2019 - Policies And Partnerships Go Hand In Hand For Strong Forests
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 32
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 33
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 34
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 35
Woodland - Winter 2019 - TOOLS AND RESOURCES
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 37
Woodland - Winter 2019 - 38
Woodland - Winter 2019 - cover3
Woodland - Winter 2019 - cover4
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