Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist • 50(2): December 2018


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Differences in subterranean termite metabolic gas emissions are readily observed in laboratory experiments. However, in natural field ecosystems a primary difficulty in measuring subterranean termite gases is non-homogeneous distribution of foraging termites in soil. Our field experiment was designed to aggregate foragers of the 'eastern subterranean termite', Reticulitermes flavipes Kollar (EST), in one of four flux chamber configurations placed on a tallgrass prairie throughout 2014 and 2015. We used differently configured flux chambers to measure metabolic gas emissions from soil with or without foraging termites on The Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (TGPP) in north-central Oklahoma. Foraging termitesaggregated in wood-filled flux chambers that were inserted into the topsoil, thereby producing significantly greater amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) during spring and summer months compared with termite exclusion control chambers. Natural, non-disturbed soils emitted no CH4, but did emit significant amounts of CO2 compared with sterilized-soil control flux chambers. We found no significant differences among treatments during cold winter months when environmental factors were not conducive to termite foraging. Seasonal environmental factors such as soil moisture and temperature, and air temperature affected gas emissions. Termites contributed to overall 'baseline' background metabolic gas emissions from TGPP soil.