But a recent study shows that some termites are actually beneficial to the ecosystem. According to the scientists who conducted the study, termites can stop deserts from spreading in semi-arid regions, and also help the environment against the damaging effects of climate change.
The study reveals that termites, by building their mounds, help store moisture and good nutrients into the earth, thus allowing water to better penetrate the earth.
According to the report, vegetation seems to thrive where there are termite mounds, especially in environments which face desertification.
Corina Tarnita, the lead author of the study and a scientist at Princeton University, said that termites build mounds which help the soil absorb the water more efficiently. This allows the plants to grow near or even on the mounds themselves.
Professor Tarnita explains that because of the termite mounds, the vegetation can survive even in very harsh conditions. She says that even if the plants disappear from the mounds, there is still a chance for re-vegetation, which is easier thanks to the termites.
Jef Huisman, professor of aquatic microbiology and theoretical ecologist at the University of Amsterdam, talked about the new termite study saying that previous warnings on the dangers of desertification were much too simple in the past. These signals failed to take into consideration the complexities of nature, according to Huisman, who was not involved in the study.
According to the researchers, there are five stages that lead to the desertification of the ground, each of them with its specific characteristics in regards to how the vegetation grows. The scientists can determine the stage of desertification of a specific area by using satellite images.
The researchers explained that the areas that are in the fifth and the last stage of desertification are similar with the semi-arid ecosystems where termites build their mounds. This showed that thanks to the termite mounds, the ecosystems that seemed to be in the final stage before the desert started to appear, the process was reversed and vegetation started growing again.
Image Source: treehugger