Int. Conf.Soil Science Society of East Africa, Busitema University edition:26 location:Jinja, Uganda date:21-24 November 2011
Fungus-growing termites (Isoptera, Macrotermitinae) are often referred to as keystone species or ecosystem engineers because of their large pedological and ecological impact.
Despite this importance, termites are still commonly erceived as pests because they consume agronomic and forestry products. In pastoral agroecosystems of semi-arid
savannas, Macrotermitinae form a very obvious competitor for space and nutrients. This is the case in western Uganda, where land-use intensity is high, and livestock keepers are prone to remove termite mounds from their pastures. To understand this pattern, local livestock keepers were probed for their knowledge and perception of termites. The results show they are only partly aware of the role these insects play in maintaining the fertility
of their pastures. They did however knew of many ways to use termite mounds to their advantage. Despite these uses to the community, most livestock keepers would rid their
land of mounds if they had the means. The consequences of termite mound removal can only be estimated, as no long term experiments exist. From the ecological impact of
Macrotermitinae documented in literature, the following scenario is deemed probable: Initially, spreading the nutrient-rich mound soil will provide a fertility increase, while more grass and space is available to livestock. In the long run however, reduced macroporosity will hamper infiltration and increase erosion. As no more clay and nutrient-rich sub-soil is recycled, overall fertility will ultimately decline, together with the habitat heterogeneity
created by the mounds. The final result can be seen as a decline in the productive capacity of the land, which meets the definition of land degradation.