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Title: The role of termites in the ecology of Tsavo National Park, Kenya
Author: Buxton, Robin
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1979
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Tsavo National Park lies in an area of very dry country in South Eastern Kenya. Elephants live there in large numbers and in the early 2 1970's, they had a mean population density of about 1 km-2 . They have inflicted widespread destruction on the woodlands which originally covered the Park, leading to a complete change in the appearance of the habitat. This caused considerable anxiety about the future of the Park and all its animal populations so research was begun to try to elucidate the root causes of the "elephant problem" and to predict its consequences. The purpose of the present study was to find out what happens to dead wood in Tsavo and to gauge the importance of termites in the ecology of the area. Section 1 gives a brief introduction to the history of Tsavo and sets out the main questions posed when this study was begun. In Section 2 the environment of the study area is described in terms of its topography and geology, the soils and their origins, the floristic and structural composition of the vegetation during this study, the climate and its variations in time and space and the role of fire in shaping the habitat. The species of termites found in the study area are listed in Section 3, followed by brief descriptions of their natural history. Section 4 contains all the information on the turnover of dead wood. The standing crop and rates of wood fall and removal were measured directly at one site and extended by means of an index to measure consumption of dead wood by termites at other sites. Consumption is found to be related to rainfall. The results are discussed in relation to similar studies made elsewhere. A model is constructed relating the consumption of dead wood by termites to rainfall and comparing this with the consumption of grass and browse by large herbivorous mammals. A method is described for measuring the relative importance of different termite species as consumers of dead wood.
Supervisor: Phillipson, John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Termites ; Ecology ; Kenya ; Tsavo National Park