According to a new study, termites are not only associated with destruction. Researchers have discovered that these tiny insects, which usually have a bad reputation, actually play a very important role in protecting the environment by preventing the process of desertification from expanding.
A team of scientists from Princeton University has been studying the insects to see what benefits they could bring to the ecosystem. It looks like the termites build mounds that are actually helping plants grow in regions where water is scarce.
The termites build special shelters known as mounds, which act as barriers and prevent the arid areas from invading the regions where there is still agriculture and vegetation.
The experts say that the process of desertification is affecting many regions of our planet and the termite mounds are actually responsible for preventing desertification from spreading out of control.
According to the researchers, the termite mounds are very complex and are made up of really intricate networks of tunnels and underground systems which allows water to permeate the ground and reach the existing vegetation, keeping it alive and thriving in regions which are prone to aridness.
The termite mounds also keep additional moisture and important nutrients which help the local plants.
The study reveals that dry regions where termites build their mounds can benefit from a very diverse vegetation, even if those regions do not receive a significant amount of rainfall.
One of the scientists involved in studying the effects of the termite mounds, Corina Tarnita, biologist at the University of Princeton, explained that the plants and vegetation that live on and around the mounds built by the termites live for a longer amount of time and decline slower.
Professor Tarnita adds that this happens even where the weather conditions are very harsh and, although vegetation can disappear from the mounds, it’s very easy for new plants to grow again. As long as the termites continue to build their mounds, the ecosystem can recover faster.
The new study that reveals the benefits of the termite mounds on the plants and vegetation of arid places has been detailed in the journal Science.
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