Termites are a rainforest's best friend

日期:2017-09-06 05:43:30 作者:曲敲 阅读:

By Andy York THE popular image of termites as timber-munching pests or builders of towering nest mounds is badly in need of a makeover. In tropical forests, the vast majority of termites conform to neither stereotype, say researchers at the Natural History Museum in London. Instead, most termites eat rotting vegetation in the soil and nest underground. They may be as important to the survival of tropical forests as earthworms are to the health of your garden. Over the past five years, Paul Eggleton and his colleagues have been measuring the biomass and biodiversity of organisms in soils in Cameroon, west Africa. Soil-dwelling termites, many from species new to science, accounted for more biomass than any other animal group. The total mass of the world’s termites may be three times that of its human population, Eggleton told the BA. “Until now nobody was aware of the enormous weight of termites underground, since they are less obvious than their mound-building cousins,” says Richard Davies, a member of the team. These subterranean species dig intricate networks of tunnels, shifting the soil and improving its aeration. By consuming rotting vegetation, they help to recycle nutrients taken from the soil by trees and other plants. “Termites can quite accurately be described as the earthworms of tropical soils,” says Eggleton. Davies hopes the new findings will rid termites of their reputation as pests. “Only a few species feed on wood,