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Species-level termite methane production rates

Citation

Zhou, Yong; Staver, Carla; Davies, Andrew (2022), Species-level termite methane production rates , Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vt4b8gtvk

Abstract

Termites consume substantial amounts of plant material across tropical and subtropical ecosystems. During the process of lignocellulose digestion, the symbiotic methanogenesis within termites’ guts produces the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Termites contribute an estimated 1-5% of global CH4 emissions, with these estimates derived from the product of termite biomass and termite CH4 production rate per unit of termite biomass. However, termite CH4 production rates vary significantly across species, genus, family, and feeding group, yet our understanding of this variation remains poor. Here, we reviewed papers published from 1975 to 2021 to create a single consistently derived list of species-level termite CH4 production rates. We searched Google Scholar using two key words: termite AND methane. We only included studies that had measured termite CH4 production rates using the incubation method. For each eligible study, we extracted and tabulated termite CH4 production rates and other relevant variables (e.g., feeding groups). We used μg CH4 g-1(termite) h-1 as the standardized unit, and if other units were presented, we converted them into this standardized unit. Overall, These data include 134 termite species from 65 genera and 5 families. Termite CH4 production rates ranged from 0 to 25.26 μg CH4 g-1(termite) h-1, with an average rate of 3.74 (standard deviation = 4.08, n = 251). Reported CH4 production rates were largely concentrated in the family Termitidae. Across feeding groups, soil feeders tended to have higher CH4 production rates than wood feeders. However, published data represent fewer than 5% of described termite species, and therefore we hope that our study will initiate a community-wide effort to fill data gaps and advance our understanding of the role of termites in critical biogeochemical cycles and other ecosystem processes.

Methods

We collected termite CH4 production rates from the literature, including both peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Data gathering was conducted in October 2020 and updated in February 2022. We searched Google Scholar using two key words: termite AND methane. All 7,699 search results were screened for eligibility. We only included studies that had measured termite CH4 production rates using the incubation method, which involves sealing a known number of termites in serum or glass vials and incubating in the dark at a fixed temperature (generally between 25 to 30°C) for a fixed time period (generally ranging from 1 to 3 hours) (see the scheme presented in Bignell et al., 1997). The CH4 produced during the incubation was then measured using a gas chromatograph for all studies. Although incubation conditions, including vial volume, incubation time, and incubation temperature, varied slightly across studies, the reported termite CH4 production rates were generally comparable across species. For studies that incubated termites with air and N2 (or H2) (e.g., Pester & Brune, 2007), we only included termite CH4 production rates measured from the incubation with air. For each eligible study, we extracted and tabulated termite CH4 production rates and other relevant variables (see the following section). We used μg CH4 g-1(termite) h-1 as the standardized unit, and if other units (e.g., μmol CH4 g-1(termite) h-1) were presented, we converted them into this standardized unit. In a few instances, we extracted data presented in figures using WebPlotDigitizer 4.5.

Funding

Institute for Biospheric Studies, Yale University