When learning about termite habitats across the world, you will quickly realize that termites prefer to dwell within hot and humid tropical and subtropical regions. Most termite species are found within equatorial regions. As a general rule, the closer a person gets to the equatorial regions of the world, the more diverse termite species will become. Termite populations are concentrated in tropical regions because these regions offer termites all of the nourishment that they need. Termites require conditions that are consistently hot and rich in water sources. This makes tropical regions ideal for termites. However, some termites have evolved to survive within harsh desert habitats, as this blog has described in the past. There are about ten termite species that can be found within arid and semi-arid regions of the American southwest. Among these species, the Gnathamitermes tubiformans, or desert termite species, is the most common.
Most people mistake desert termites for subterranean termites of the genus Reticulitermes. While both of these species are soil-dwelling, only Reticulitermes termite species damage manmade structures. Desert termites do not cause damage to manmade structures and they rarely harm turfgrass, crops or rangelands. Actually, the desert termite may be the only termite species dwelling in the United States that Americans should be happy about. In fact, desert termites are considered a keystone species in the Chihuahuan Desert due to the environmentally beneficial services that these termites provide. Termites that dwell within the desert regions of America and Mexico travel far below the sandy ground surface in order to reach fertile soil. These termites transport fertile soil up to the dry ground surface of the Sonoran Desert. This excavation process makes the desert soil fertile enough for vegetation growth. Termites are considered the most major movers of soil in the Sonoran Desert. A group of ecologists estimated that termites in the Chihuahuan Desert transport more than seventeen hundred pounds of soil per two and a half acres of land to the ground surface each year.
In addition to foraging activity, do you think that nest building activity of desert termites also leads to more fertile desert soil?
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