PhD ceremony: B.P. Freymann, 13.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Thesis: Functional roles of termites in savanna ecosystems
Promotor(s): prof. H. Olff
Faculty: Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Bernd Freymann investigated autecological and ecosystem-wide aspects of the functional role of termites (Insecta, Isoptera) in decomposition processes in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, on different spatial and temporal scales.
The eusocial termites are distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the Earth. Termites are of great functional importance to the ecosystems they inhabit as they act as herbivores as well as important decomposers, feeding on a wide range of living, dead or decaying plant material. The Serengeti is one of the best studied savanna ecosystems if it comes to the big charismatic mammals, but termites are almost entirely neglected until now. The chapters of this thesis are situated on three subject levels: conceptual (reviews, meta-data analyses), autecological aspects (experiments) and ecosystem-wide aspects (experiments, field transects). Freymann quantifies for the Serengeti for the first time the spatially and temporally heterogeneous decomposition of grass litter by termites. Moreover, he presents novel qualitative and quantitative insights concerning the functional roles of termites: their role in the decomposition of mammalian dung, their ecological interaction with dung beetles, their role in arthropod food webs, insights concerning the determinants (resources vs. conditions) of termites mound distribution as well as the effects of disturbance regimes on a number of insect groups in the Serengeti. In several chapters he broadens up the view beyond the Serengeti to savanna ecosystems in general also including the potential effects of global climate change on the investigated ecological processes.
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