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Effects of environmental perturbation on the territory size of subterranean termites: A simulation study

Lee, Sang-Hee
Journal of Asia-Pacific entomology 2012 v.15 no.3 pp. 457-463
Coptotermes formosanus, computers, disasters, foraging, models, population, subterranean termites, territoriality
Disruptions to an ecological system can have profound effects on the use of that system by various species. Such effects are often studied in terrestrial or aquatic species, but subterranean species are equally affected. To investigate how environmental perturbation affects the territory size of subterranean termites, a lattice model was designed based using seasonal and behavioral data to simulate the foraging behavior of the Formosan subterranean termite Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki. This computer model was then used to subject a given number of founding pairs (N=20, 40, 60, 80, 100 at t=0) to several levels of environmental perturbations (H=0.0–1.0) once initial territory growth had reached saturation for a fixed area (t=5). At lower values of H, territories were reduced to localized holdings randomly distributed over the entire model area. As H increased, the size of surviving territories increased while the total number of territories decreased. Analysis of territory size post-disruption (t=10) indicated a trend towards larger overall territorial size when both N and H were high, whereas no such increase was seen when N was low. These results can be used to improve modeling systems to determine survival of subterranean populations in environmental disasters.