The Web of Life (23-3) Termites


In many parched ecosystems, termite nests serve as oases in the desert. Termites improve soil quality, enhancing plant growth.

We tend to think about large mammals as being the big dominant driver of what’s happening in the savanna, but the more we look at the termite mounds the more they seem to be driving what’s going on. ~ American ecologist Robert Pringle

As termites dig through the ground, the plethora of holes they create allow rain to soak deep into the soil rather than running off or evaporating.

Termites artfully mix particles of sand, stone, and clay with organic bits, including their own feces and other bodily excretions. That helps soil cohere, retain nutrients, and resist erosion.

Termite gut bacteria are avid nitrogen-fixers: able to extract this vital element from the air and convert it into usable fertilizer.

Termites are the ultimate soil engineers. ~ English entomologist David Bignell