Termites May Fuel Climate Change

As a go-to company for Columbia and Charleston termite control, we’ve always found termites to be destructive, yet interesting pests. Recently, we read about termites and their potential contribution to climate change and found it pretty interesting:

When it comes to climate change, termites may play a bigger role than we once thought. One of the main causes of a warming climate is the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and rotting trees have a lot to do with that.

When a tree rots, it releases carbon, and in a new study published in the Nature Climate Change journal, scientists discovered that can speed up tree rotting – termites. For a long time, researchers thought that simple climate temperature and the amount of moisture in the air were the things that fueled tree decomposition, but researchers from Yale, SUNY Buffalo State, and the University of Central Florida found that both termites and fungi contribute to the rotting of forests more than just the climate itself.

In the experiment, researchers distributed 160 blocks of pine tree wood throughout Eastern forests from Connecticut to Florida (among various types of terrain).

In an article by Science Codex, Mark Bradford, an assistant professor of terrestrial ecosystem ecology at Yale, said they wanted to generate as much variation as possible. “…we put some blocks on south-facing slopes, where they would be warmer in the summer, and others on north-facing slopes where it’s colder. We put some on top of ridges and others next to streams where it was wetter.”

The team monitored the trees’ decomposition over 13 months and noted the parts that decomposed due to termites and the parts that decomposed due to fungi. Termites and fungi made up 3/4 of why the wood decomposed, while climate made up 1/4.

In addition to feeding on trees and releasing carbon, termites also release more methane than you may think, which adds to the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The team will continue to study the experiment to better understand the effects and better predict climate change factors.

Many wonder what will happen if the climate warms – will more termites flourish? What do you think?

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