Termites and the African Savanna Ecosystem

Scientists have found that mound-building termites are responsible for creating oases in the middle of the plains of Africa. These large termites are called Odontotermes montanus.

The termites start by excavating underground nests. When they do this, they bring sand to the area. Their digging aerates the soil, which is normally hard, compacted clay. The aeration allows rain to penetrate the soil more efficiently.

The termites gather all of the dead wood and grass, and they clear an area that can be as large as 100’ in diameter. They chew up the dead wood and use the pulp to grow fungus in underground gardens.

The fungus actually digests the cellulose in the wood pulp. The cellulose is converted into sugar that the termites use for nourishment. Their gardening adds nitrogen to the soil, making it more fertile.

By aerating the soil and adding fertilizer, the termites enable grass to grow. This attracts insects, which attract geckos, birds, and spiders. The grass also attracts a variety of large animals. The animals’ droppings add fertilizer to the mixture while they are grazing.

In the United States, termites are able to digest cellulose by means of protozoans in their digestive tract. The termites often get the cellulose from wood, cardboard, and paper that they find in homes.

Experts recommend getting an annual termite inspection. The termite control professionals can recognize the signs of termite activity. They can point out landscaping issues that might make the yard attractive to termites. They can also point out structural conditions that might allow termites easy access to the house.