Can Termites Predict Climate Change?

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Forget number crunching weather simulations. It now turns out tracking where termites build their mounds can help to predict climate change.

By using an airborne mapping system, scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology mapped more than 40,000 termite mounds across 192 square miles in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The September 7 research, published in Nature Communications, found that the termite mounds size and distribution is linked to vegetation and landscape patterns associated with annual rainfall. Not only do the results reveal how termite mounds can be used to predict ecological shifts from climate change, but they also show how the African savanna terrain has evolved.

Unlike plants, which vary depending on whether it’s the wet or the dry season, the mounds are more constant and thus provide a better indication of shifts in ecosystems and weather patterns.

“By understanding the patterns of the vegetation and termite mounds over different moisture zones, we can project how the landscape might change with climate change,” explained co-author of the research, Greg Asner at Carnegie.

So next time you’ve got a mound of termites outside your house, those crawly little creatures may actually be more than pests and doing some good after all. (via Treehugger)

-Tara Kelly