Mounds maximize ecosystem productivity: Odontotermes termites
The below-ground mounds of Odontotermes termites strongly influence savanna productivity via ordered spatial distribution and modification of soil composition.
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"The mechanism through which termite activity is transformed into far-reaching effects on the ecosystem is a complex one. Pringle and Palmer suspect termites import coarse particles into the otherwise fine soil in the vicinity of their mounds. These coarser particles promote water infiltration of the soil, even as they discourage disruptive shrinking and swelling of topsoil in response to precipitation or drought.
"The mounds also show elevated levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. All this beneficial soil alteration appears to directly and indirectly mold ecosystem services far beyond the immediate vicinity of the mound." (EurekAlert! 2010)
"The findings also have important implications for conservation, Palmer says.
"'As we think restoring degraded ecosystems, as we think about restoring coral reefs, or restoring plant communities, this over-dispersed pattern is teaching us something,' he says. 'It's saying we might want to think about doing our coral restoration or plant restoration in a way that takes advantage of this ecosystem productivity enhancing phenomenon.'" (ScienceDaily 2010)
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist
Application Ideas: Learning from termite mounds the best soil texture and nutrient levels for local food-growing. Model for distribution of centers of productivity for use in community planning. Ecosystem restoration.
Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Community planning, agriculture, restoration
Todd M. Palmer
Department of Zoology, University of Florida