Nav: Home

How forest termites protect tropical forests from drought

January 10, 2019

The efforts of tiny forest termites have a big effect on the harmful ecological effects of drought in tropical rainforests, according to a new study, which reveals their important role in maintaining ecosystem function during periods of extended aridity. The results underscore the importance of conserving natural ecosystems by showing how a single insect community can help safeguard an entire forest during rapid environmental change. Termites are known to be some of the most important ecosystem engineers. They change soil properties by decomposing organic matter, wood and leaf litter on the forest floor, mixing and maintaining soil nutrients, and regulating moisture - all of which are key factors in maintaining rainforest ecosystems. Extended periods of drought pose a threat to these important ecosystem functions, which can greatly impact tree mortality. However, the overall ecological contributions of forest termites remain largely unquantified, and according to the authors, little is known about how drought-mediated changes to their communities affect tropical rainforest ecosystems during periods of environmental stress. By suppressing termite activity in sections of old-growth tropical rainforest in Malaysia during and after the 2015-2016 "super El Niño" drought, Louise Ashton and colleagues were able to assess the insect's specific role in rainforest ecosystem functioning. Ashton et al. discovered that termite activity and abundance more than doubled in plots where termite communities were present during drought compared to post-drought conditions, which resulted in higher litter decomposition rates, soil nutrient mixing and soil moisture. Furthermore, seedling survivability decreased in areas where termites were suppressed, according to the authors. The study's results suggest that increased termite activity during drought helps buffer important soil processes crucial for tropical forest survival and that human-mediated impacts on forest termite communities could make tropical forests less resistant to future drought.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Drought Articles:

An evapotranspiration deficit drought index to detect drought impacts on ecosystems
The difference between actual and potential evapotranspiration, technically termed a standardized evapotranspiration deficit drought index (SEDI), can more sensitively capture the biological changes of ecosystems in response to the dynamics of drought intensity, compared with indices based on precipitation and temperature.
Sesame yields stable in drought conditions
Research shows adding sesame to cotton-sorghum crop rotations is possible in west Texas
Mapping the effects of drought on vulnerable populations
The greater frequency of droughts, combined with underlying economic, social, and environmental risks means that dry spells have an increasingly destructive impact on vulnerable populations, and particularly on children in the developing world.
Asia's glaciers provide buffer against drought
A new study to assess the contribution that Asia's high mountain glaciers make to relieving water stress in the region is published this week (May 29, 2019) in the journal Nature.
How severe drought influences ozone pollution
From 2011 to 2015, California experienced its worst drought on record, with a parching combination of high temperatures and low precipitation.
A faster, more accurate way to monitor drought
A new drought monitoring method developed at Duke University allows scientists to identify the onset of drought sooner, meaning conservation or remediation measures could be put into place sooner.
How does the Amazon rain forest cope with drought?
The Amazon rain forest isn't necessarily a place that many would associate with a drought, yet prolonged dry spells are projected to become more prevalent and severe because of climate change.
Trees change inside as drought persists
James Cook University scientists in Australia have found that trees change their anatomy in response to prolonged drought.
Climate changes require better adaptation to drought
Europe's future climate will be characterised by more frequent heat waves and more widespread drought.
New research identifies two types of drought across China and how they evolve
Dr. Linying WANG and Professor Xing YUAN, from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, used in-situ observations and reanalysis datasets to explore the long-term variability and trends of two types of flash drought.
More Drought News and Drought Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.