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Termites Mitigate Effects of Drought in Tropical Rainforests

January 11, 2019 |

Filipe Fortes [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on

“A major new study, led jointly by the University of Liverpool and the Natural History Museum, has discovered that termites mitigate against the effects of drought in tropical rain forests.

Researchers from both institutions undertook the first large-scale study to test the hypothesis that  play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem processes in rainforests during periods of .

Termites play an important role in the ecosystem as decomposers and facilitate , enhance soil moisture and affect nutrients. They are one of the few living creatures that can break down cellulose found in plant material.

Working in  in Malaysian Borneo, during and after the extreme El Nino drought of 2015—16, the research team compared sites with lots of termites with sites where termites had been experimentally removed using novel suppression methods.

They found that the sites with termites saw an increase in the abundance of termites during the drought period, with fewer termites in the non-drought period. The greater number of termites during the drought resulted in higher rates of leaf litter decomposition and nutrient cycling, and increased soil moisture and seedling survival rates compared with the non-drought period…”

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