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Termites Help To Support An Entire Ecosystem

June 13th, 2017

When you picture African landscapes you probably picture a vast region of desert with a bit of vegetation spread throughout. African savannahs are dry regions with patches of vegetation in random areas. These savannahs make up entire ecosystems that support numerous types of animal life. However, savanna-dwelling animals would not survive the harsh landscape if it were not for the vegetation and the water that exists within savannas. Many scientists now believe that termites are responsible for creating the fertile soil within African savannahs, and therefore termites created the environmental conditions needed to sustain life in many parts of Africa.

Termites are well known for the large nests that look like dirt mounds that are a meter or two in height. Termites can spend several centuries building their tall mounds, and during this time, termites are digging through the soil constantly. All of this digging makes the soil fertile enough to grow shrubs, fruit bearing trees, and other types of plants. These fertile areas can be lifesavers for animals roaming the wide expanse of African savannas.

The majority of African savannas are comprised of stiff and dry dirt, but every fifty meters or so, a large mound covered in grass can be found. These grassy mounds are abandoned termite nests. The termites aerate the soil, which leads to greater water absorption after rainfall. Termite droppings also increase the fertility of the soil. All of this termite activity ultimately increases the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil, which invites the growth of plant life. These fertile patches of earth make savannas survivable for many animals. For example, zebras and buffalo are often found grazing near these grassy mounds. So if you ever find yourself wondering an African savanna, and you come across a patch of water, then you have termites to thank for that.

Have you ever encountered a tall dirt mound that was constructed by termites? If you have, then where was the mound located?

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