Ecology of Termites

What are the role of termites in an ecosystem?

Termites are a very important part of the ecosystem. They are very important in nutrient cycling, habitat creation, soil formation and quality, and serve as food for countless predators. The role of termites in hollowing timbers and thus providing shelter and increased wood surface areas for other creatures is critical for the survival of a large number of timber-inhabiting species. When termites form large mounds, they become habitats for many species of animals. This is especially true in the plains in Africa. When the plains become inundated during the rainy season, these mounds, which can grow as tall as 9 meters (30 feet), provide small animals and birds with a refuge above the water.

Termite mound in Tanzania, a country in East Africa

Scorpions, birds, lizards, snakes and small mammals live in abandoned or weathered termite mounds. Aardvarks can dig caves and burrows in these mounds as well, and these become home to larger animals such as hyenas and mongooses.

Termites are also considered to be a major source of atmospheric methane, one of the prime greenhouse gases.

In climates where there are a large number of termites, plants have developed protection against the termites. This is usually done by secreting anti-feeding chemicals (such as oil and resin) to make consuming cellulose harder for termites.

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