The role of termite CH4 emissions on ecosystem scale: a case study in the Amazon rain forest
Abstract. The magnitude of termite methane (CH4) emissions is still an uncertain part of the global CH4 budget and current emission estimates are based on limited field studies. We present in-situ CH4 emission measurements of termite mounds and termite mound sub samples, performed in the Amazon rain forest. Emissions of five termite mounds of the species Neocapritermes brasiliensis were measured by use of a large flux chamber connected to a portable gas analyser, measuring CH4 and CO2. In
... on, the emission of mound sub samples was measured, after which termites were counted, so that a termite CH4 and CO2 emission factor could be determined. Mound emissions were found to range between 17.0–34.8 nmol mound−1 s−1 for CH4 and between 1.6–13.5 μmol mound−1 s−1 for CO2. A termite emission factor of 0.32 μmol CH4 gtermite−1 h−1 was found, which is twice as high as the only other reported average value for the Amazon. By combining mound emission measurements with the termite emission factor, colony sizes could be estimated, which were found to range between 50–120 thousand individuals. Estimates were similar to literature values, and we therefore propose that this method can be used as a quick non-intrusive method to estimate termite colony size in the field. The role of termites in the ecosystems CH4 budget was evaluated by use of two approaches. Termite mound emission values were combined with local termite mound density numbers, leading to an estimate of 0.15–0.71 nmol CH4 m−2 s−1 on average emitted by termite mounds. In addition, the termite CH4 emission factor from this study was combined with termite density numbers, resulting in an estimate of termite emitted CH4 of ~1.0 nmol m−2 s−1. Considering the relatively low net CH4 emissions previously measured at this ecosystem, we expect that termites play an important role in the CH4 budget of this Terra Firme ecosystem.