Termite taxonomy and distribution with particular reference to climate change in Africa

IRG/WP 10-10738

P O Y Nkunika, B M Ahmed Shiday, G W Sileshi, J R J French, P Nyeko, S Jain

Termites constitute an integral component of various ecosystems in Africa. Termites are also amongst the most difficult of the insects to study because of their cryptic behaviour. There are around 2600 species of termites (Isoptera) in 280 genera which have been described worldwide and about 39% of the total termite species are found in Africa. Some termite species are well known pests of agricultural crops, forest trees, wood products and timber-in-service. Thus, they are responsible for considerable damage in building structures in Africa. Termite identification is crucial to understanding termite distribution and to develop an integrated termite pest management (IPM) system. Published literature on the taxonomy and distribution of termites in Africa with particular reference to climate change is scanty. Little is known about the effect of climate change on the potential distribution of pestiferous termite fauna of Africa, especially the wood destroying exotic species. This African termite review attempts to collate information on termite taxonomy, distribution and climate change and highlight the gaps in knowledge and challenges in Africa, which is the centre of origin of the Macrotermitinae. African economic important termite species will receive sufficient attention for identification and distribution compared to other termite species. The use of traditional identification methods coupled with molecular techniques promises to resolve some of the challenges in termite taxonomy and distribution with particular reference to climate change in Africa, will be discussed.

Keywords: Isoptera, taxonomy, distribution, climate change, molecular techniques, Africa

Conference: 10-05-09/13 Biarritz, France

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