Researchers map termite mounds in Africa

Researchers map termite mounds in Africa Researchers have mapped the location of thousands of termite mounds in Africa through high tech scanners which can help predict future of weather conditions.

The researchers from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology used a scanning method called LIDAR to map 40,000 termite mounds over Kruger National Park in South Africa.

The map could also help predict droughts in the region. These insects are found to construct their houses under specific soil conditions. They look for regions where the soil is well drained above the seepline.

A seeplines occurs where water flows below ground through sandy soil and backs up at areas high in clay. The termites build mould above this line and make it easier for researchers to identify the line.

Shaun Levick lead author said, "We found that precipitation, along with elevation, hydrological, and soil conditions determine whether the area will be dominated by grasses or woody vegetation and the size and density of termite mounds."

The researchers say that by understanding links between soil, the termite mounds, rainfall, and vegetation it could be possible to accurate predict droughts. The movements of termite mounds are an early warning system of the coming dryness.

"The predictions are that many regions of the savanna will become drier, which suggests more woody species will encroach on today's grasslands. These changes will depend on complex but predictable hydrological processes along hill slopes, which will correspond to pattern changes in the telltale termite mounds we see today from the air," says co-author Greg Asner.