At the end of the day, there is no doubt that termites are more helpful than harmful to humans and the environment. Termite populations are most diverse in the tropics, and this is a good thing. The all encompassing vegetation in tropical regions may be due to termite activity in soil. Termites plow soil loose and they always enrich soil through mineralization. This process is especially beneficial to tropical forms of plant life since seventy percent of all termites on the planet are active in tropical regions. This is an especially impressive statistic considering that these same tropical areas only account for twenty percent of the earth’s surface. Subterranean termites are highly beneficial, and are even essential to the breakdown of plant matter. However, termites also emit significant amounts of two greenhouse gases, but some termite species emit more of these gases than others.
Termites emit methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. One past study demonstrated that termites account for forty percent of all methane in the atmosphere annually. However, this study’s results are highly misleading since only very few regions were tested for methane levels, and subsequent studies have indicated that termite species living in certain regions produce more or less than other termite species located elsewhere.
Not all termites feed exclusively on wooden items. For example, soil feeding termites extract nutrition from soil through the process of hummus fraction. These soil-feeding termites produce ten times the amount of methane that wood-feeding termites produce. More recent statistics on this topic put the amount of methane produced by termites every year as two to five percent of the global total. Obviously, more greenhouses gases are produced by livestock, gas and coal mining, but two to five percent is still an amazing amount of methane for tiny centimeter long insects to produce.
Do you think that fungus-farming termites of the termitidae family produce the least amount of methane per year when considering all termite families?