Ecology: Mighty termite mounds

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
465,
Page:
529
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/465529c
Published online

Cited research: PLoS Biol. 8, e1000377 (2010)

The regular 'polka-dot' arrangement of termite mounds in East Africa boosts ecosystem productivity, researchers say.

Robert Pringle at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his team found that plants grow more quickly and animals are more abundant around the subterranean mounds of termites (Odontotermes) in Kenya. This is because the fungus-cultivating creatures make the soil more moist and nutrient-rich than that of the surrounding dry savanna. The even spacing of the mounds (pictured as small red circles in satellite image) means that all points in the local landscape are relatively close to a mound, maximizing the ecosystem's productivity.

Simulated landscapes with randomly arranged mounds were less productive than those with regularly spaced mounds. N.G.

R. M. PRINGLE ET AL.

Additional data