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Studies find that termites accelerate global warming

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Studies find that termites accelerate global warming

Termites “greatly speed up the process” of decomposition of colonized wood, compared to biomass that was not exposed to these insects.


The rise in temperatures on the planet can promote a greater proliferation of termites and the volume of wood they destroy, with the consequent release of large amounts of carbon dioxide, which is one of the gases that causes the ‘greenhouse effect’, says a scientific study in which the Florida International University (FIU) has participated.

A warmer world will favor termites, helping them to expand and be more active in their consumption of wood. This will further increase global warming because the decomposition of dead wood will accelerate and methane and CO2 emissions will multiply. This is indicated by an international investigation with the participation of the Center for Forest Science and Technology of Catalonia, the University of Lleida (UdL), CREAF, CSIC, Agrotecnio and the University of Alcalá, which has just been published by the prestigious journal Science.

The study, led by Amy Zanne from the University of Miami (United States), brings together a hundred researchers from 22 countries around the world.

“With moderate estimates of climate warming, by mid-century we can foresee its expansion in subtropical regions (phenomenon known as tropicalization), which would represent an increase of 14% of the surface with high termite activity worldwide, reaching 45 million km2”, highlights the contracted professor at the UdL and researcher at the mixed unit CTFC-Agrotecnio, José Antonio Bonet.

The team has been able to verify that, for every temperature increase of 10 ° C, termites increase 6.8 times the decomposition of wood. This fact has important consequences for the carbon cycle.

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Forests contain approximately 676 billion tons of biomass and dead wood is a large global carbon store. Scientists say that the sensitivity of termites and fungi to temperature and precipitation will play a key role in determining the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems, that is, whether it is stored or lost as the planet warms. .

A first conclusion that is drawn is that termites “much accelerate the process” of decomposition of colonized wood, compared to the biomass that was not exposed to these insects.

The projections of the study, published in the journal Science, indicate that, by the end of the 21st century, termites could colonize up to 30% more than their current rate in temperate zones, with the consequent release of more CO2 into the atmosphere.

Therefore, “if the world becomes more tropical, termites could be a contributing factor for” warmer global temperatures “, a potential threat for the acceleration of global warming on which further studies and projection models are required, acknowledged the scientist.

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