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Termites Foretell Climate Change in Africa’s Savannas





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Termite Mound in Tanzania
The Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology has mapped over 40,000 termite mounds across the African savanna. Why would they do this? It turns out that termites are exceptionally sensitive to heat and moisture in the soil. By mapping where the termites choose to place their mounds, the insects are providing an indicator of climate change across regions.
Palo Alto, CA—Using sophisticated airborne imaging and structural analysis, scientists at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology mapped more than 40,000 termite mounds over 192 square miles in the African savanna. They found that their size and distribution is linked to vegetation and landscape patterns associated with annual rainfall. The results reveal how the savanna terrain has evolved and show how termite mounds can be used to predict ecological shifts from climate change. The research is published in the September 7, 2010, advanced online edition of Nature Communications.
“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 Greg Asner at Carnegie. “Warming is expected to increase the variability of future precipitation in African savannas.” Continued...

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