Stronger effects of termites than microbes on wood decomposition in a subtropical forest.
Deadwood contains a sizeable proportion of total forest C, and its decomposition transfers organic C to the atmosphere, other organisms and soils. Microbes have traditionally been thought to be the primary drivers of woodmdecomposition worldwide, but few studies have tested the relative importance of termites to this process. The aim of this study was to compare the relative contributions of microbes and termites to wood (Cinnamomum camphora) decomposition by conducting a field experiment of termite access (with and without termite exclusion)and soil contact (with and without soil contact) treatments in subtropical China. After a two-year period, termites were responsible for an estimated 55.7% and 48.9% of observed wood loss from wood blocks with andmwithout soil contact, respectively. Wood in direct contact with the soil decomposed 1.4 times as fast as wood separated from the soil. Our results show that termites can exceed microbes in importance to wood decomposition in subtropical forests and highlight the importance of soil contact in determining decay rates.