The humble termite takes away the crown of the nature of the lion king


29/05/2010

The majestic animals that are strongly associated with the African savanna - fierce lions, massive elephants, towering over everything around giraffes - play a relatively minor role in shaping the ecosystem.

The real king of the savannah, it seems, is the termite, say ecologists who have found that this modest establishment, making a significant contribution to the production of pastures in central Kenya, through a network of uniformly distributed colonies. Termite mounds greatly enhance plant and animal activity at the local level, as in the case of a uniform distribution on a large area increases the productivity of the ecosystem to the limit.

This discovery, published in the journal PLoS Biology, confirms the paradoxical approach to population ecology: Often something small, has the greatest impact.

"It is not always the charismatic predators such as lions and leopards, have the greatest impact on the population," - said Robert M. Pringle (Robert M. Pringle), a researcher at Harvard University - "like likes to say, American biologist Wilson, often the world is governed trivia . in the case of the savanna, it turned out that termites have a tremendous impact on the functioning of this ecosystem. "

It all started with the fact that the researchers noticed an unusually large number of lizards in the neighborhood of a termite mound. This interested Pringle and his colleagues, and they decided to measure the density of the distribution of termite mounds is related to ecological productivity. They are found around each mound there was a dense cluster of flora and fauna: the closer the plants were to termite mounds, the faster they grow up, and vice versa: the farther from the termite mounds located the animal population, the slower they multiplied.

Quite obvious, this trend has become, after scientists studied satellite photos. Each mound - which when viewed from the ground was relatively inconspicuous among the pastures of Kenya, seen from a height, found himself in the center of rapid flowering flora. What is even more interesting, these accumulations of flora were highly organized in relation to each other, they were evenly distributed, like checks on the board. Thus, an exuberant flowering flora and fauna, which is closely correlated with the ordered distribution of termite mounds.

The mechanism of the influence of termites on the ecosystem - is quite complicated. Pringle and Palmer suggested that termites bring coarse particles in the soil, located near the mounds. These coarse particles retain water in the soil, while protecting the topsoil from the devastating drought and usushivaniya at least from the devastating swelling during precipitation.

Termites also increase the content of the soil of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. All of these beneficial changes in soil, affect, directly or indirectly, on the ecosystem far beyond the mound.

Further studies will determine the mechanism of formation of mounds in a orderly manner. Pringle and Palmer believe that the practical applicability of this work is beyond the scope of environmental issues.

"Termites earned a meager fame pests, they are considered a threat to agriculture," - said Pringle, - "But productivity and wild and cultivated nature, is closely linked with these organisms. They affect the natural landscape to a greater extent than commonly believed."

This discovery will be used in the conservation of nature. You can always download the news ticker and be aware of all the world’s news.

Original: Sciencedaily.com


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