Desertification and termite mounds

Photo credit: Clean Technica

Fighting Desertification With Termites — Insects Crucial To Stopping Spread Of Deserts, Research Finds

by James Ayre


Desertification is a growing problem in many parts of the world, mostly owing to common human activities such as agriculture, animal husbandry (grazing), and groundwater use. It’s a common topic of discussion in some fields of scientific research (and elsewhere) how best to address this issue.

And now, new research from Princeton University is suggesting that the answer (or at least a partial answer) has been right in front of our faces the whole time, and is a bit obvious — termites.

Onslow, Western Australia -
Onslow, Western Australia –

While many people seem to have something of a visceral dislike of the insects (despite people in many parts of the world enjoying them as food), the new research has found that they could be integral to the arrest of the process of desertification in many parts of the world. In particular, into agricultural lands and semi-arid ecosystems.

The Largest Natural Buildings -
The Largest Natural Buildings –

The research found that termite mounds could go a long ways toward making these areas more resilient to the process of desertification, and to the broad climatic changes anticipated in the coming decades as a result of industrial activity.

Termite mounds are something like oases in the parched drylands of much of the equatorial world — working to modulate the immediate environment via the nutrients and moisture stored in the extensive internal tunnels (which allow water to better penetrate the soil). Owing to this, termite mounds are often surrounded by abundant vegetation — and can work to counteract the wider environment’s desertification.

The new research from Princeton University — published in the journal Science — found that “drylands with termite mounds can survive on significantly less rain than those without termite mounds.”

Read the full article: Clean Technica


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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