WELLINGTON, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Climate change could lead to greenhouse gas-producing termites spreading further around the globe, as well as in New Zealand, according to a new research released on Tuesday.
A global study jointly conducted by universities of New Zealand and Australia has been published in the publication Science, which found that people may have underestimated how termites contribute to and could spread because of, climate change.
Lincoln University ecologists, Associate Prof. Tim Curran and Dr Azharul Alam are among 100 researchers who took part in the study. The pair placed wood blocks at the Hinewai Reserve near Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula in New Zealand to determine the numbers of the wood-eating insect here.
Termites are critical in natural ecosystems, especially in the tropics because they help recycle dead wood from trees, according to the study.
The study showed termites are very sensitive to temperature, so as the world heats up through climate change, the insect's role in wood decay will likely expand beyond the tropics. They can also thrive in dry conditions.
The termites produce methane in their guts and release carbon dioxide when they break down wood, which contributes to global warming, according to ecologists.
The researchers studied locations across the globe where bacteria and fungi (microbes) and termites consume dead wood. They also investigated how temperature and rainfall could impact the decay of wood by using the same experimental setup at more than 130 sites in a variety of habitats across six continents.
Their results suggest that areas with high termite activity would increase as the earth becomes warmer and drier.