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A new study revealed that termites help rainforests survive drought, a long period of dry weather with little to no rainfall.
Termites are insects known to destroy wooden houses, clothing, and other materials, so it comes as no surprise that they are commonly considered pests. However, while these insects serve no use to homeowners, a team of scientists found that termites are actually beneficial to tropical rainforests.
The scientists noted that termites thrive in moist soil. During drought, instincts drive termites to dig deeper into the soil in search of moisture. They then bring the moisture to the surface soil, making it easy for seedlings to sprout.
These findings were brought to light after an experiment at a rainforest in Sabah, Malaysia. The scientists removed termites from some areas of the rainforest and observed how the insects’ absence affected the lands. Then, they compared those lands with the areas still inhabited by termites.
During the drought, termite activity in the termite-inhabited areas was higher. As a result, the areas with termites had more moisture and nutrients compared to those without the insects.
Because of the findings, scientists are calling for the conservation of the termite population as droughts are predicted to become worse due to climate change. The scientists stressed that without termites, the preservation of the ecosystem and rainforests could be put in jeopardy.
The scientists also emphasized the importance of protecting other species. They said that other species might be playing a key role in the ecosystem, and we are just not aware of their importance yet.