Termites are particularly important in savannas of Africa, Australasia, and South America, and their nest structures (“mounds”) shape many environmental properties; analogous structures built by ants and burrowing mammals are similarly influential worldwide. Mound soils differ from surrounding “matrix” soils in physical and chemical composition, which enhances vegetation growth, creating “islands of fertility.” Moreover, mounds are frequently spatially over-dispersed owing to competition among neighboring colonies, which creates spotted vegetation patterns [Bonachela 2015: 652].
This study seeks to characterize landscape patterns created by termites in order to distinguish between that and other causes of spotted vegetation patterns that have been assumed to indicate imminent ecological collapse. “Rather, mound-field landscapes are more robust to aridity, suggesting that termites may help stabilize ecosystems under global change” [Bonachela 2015: 651].
Bonachela, Juan A., et al, 2015, Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change, Science 347: 6222, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6222/651.