Chien C. Lee

In terms of floorboards and furnishings, termites get a foul rap. However there’s one sort of wooden they could be good for: the bushes of rainforests.

Throughout an excessive drought that struck the island of Borneo throughout late 2015 and early 2016, researchers studied eight extensively scattered plots on the forest ground. In 4 of these 2500-square-meter areas, staff members dug out or leveled termite mounds after which left poison baits for the bugs that remained. Within the different 4 areas, researchers left the bugs alone.

Within the plots with intact termite mounds and nests, soil moisture at a depth of 5 centimeters was 36% larger in the course of the drought than it was in plots the place termite exercise was disrupted. Termites (above) usually require a moist surroundings and, when crucial, will dig down dozens of meters or extra to carry water as much as their residing areas, the scientists word.

That termite-induced enhance in near-surface soil moisture was useful to crops in the course of the drought, the researchers report immediately in Science: Seedlings of climbing vines transplanted into areas the place termites remained lively had been 51% extra prone to survive than these in areas with out the wood-eating bugs.

As a result of droughts are anticipated to happen extra steadily in coming years as local weather modifications, termites might play an more and more essential position in rainforest productiveness and biodiversity, the researchers counsel.

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