The mound-building termites hold an incredible ability of slowing down the pace of desertification process of environments, according to the new study.
The termites, which are generally seen as pests, were found contributing in the slowdown of the spread of deserts into dry lands.
The researchers said the termites help in slowing down the desertification process after providing a moist refuge for vegetation and around mounds.
These nutrients and moisture are stored in the termite mounds through internal tunnels that permit the penetration of sparse water into the soil in a better way.
According to the researchers, the study showed that the vegetation grew more conveniently in areas surrounding the mounds. Moreover, it was found that these mounds immensely helped in the recovery after periods of drought. This is only because the dormant seeds remain protected in the mounds.
Study co-author Robert Pringle argued that other builders of mound like ants, prairie dogs and gophers could contribute in providing similar assistance to the eco-system.
“Exactly what each type of animal does for vegetation is hard to know in advance. All we need to do is to get into a system for determining the mound builders and also know about the properties of the mounds are,” Pringle said.
Explaining the findings in a statement, study co-author Cornia Tarnita said, “Even when you get to such harsh conditions where vegetation disappears from the mounds, re-vegetation is still easier. As long as the mounds are there the ecosystem has a better chance to recover.”
Doug Levey, program director in the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation, said, “This study demonstrates that termite mounds create important refugee for plants and help to protect vast landscapes in Africa from the effects of drought. Clearly, not all termites are pests.”
The researchers explored the mounds created by the termites after taking the measurements and studying them in regard to the mathematical scenarios.
Pringle, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, said the study highlights the role of biological interactions in tempering the impacts of climate change and their importance for maintaining the health of an ecosystem of these cryptic creatures whose contribution are generally not recognized as they perform their work largely out of sight.
The findings of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, were published online in the journal Science on Thursday.