Termites Control Methane Emissions

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Scientists are studying on how termites control methane emissions in their moulds. Methane is a greenhouse gas. Research has revealed that termites’ moulds have built-in filtering system. Termites have special bacteria in their gut to breakdown food. However, a lot of methane is produced during digestion. The study proved that termite’s fart contains methane.

A team of researchers from the School of Ecosystem and Forest Science, University of Melbourne, said most of the methane released by termites is broken down by the bacteria within the moulds and the underlying soil.

The termite moulds release roughly 1-3% of methane gas produced in the world, which is 20 tonnes. This release of methane is much lower than what the termites actually produce.

Dr. Philipp Nauer, the lead researcher, said around half of all methane emitted from termites is broken down by bacteria within the mounds and underlying soil.

This is good news for the planet, and it also makes a lot of sense biologically speaking. This is because methane is an energy source, says Professor Stefan Arndt, also from the University of Melbourne, who was a co-author on the study, alongside Professor Lindsay Huntley from Charles Darwin University.

A group of bacteria called methanotrophs live in the soil and consume methane as their primary source of energy. "They are in your garden soil, in your city soil, in the forest, they are even in agricultural soils," Stefan Arndt, professor at the University of Melbourne, said in a news release.

The study published in PNAS, stated, “Termite mounds oxidize, on average, half of the methane produced by termites before emission. This ‘hidden’ bio filter mechanism is mediated by methanotrophic bacteria living in the mound walls or the soil beneath, for which internal termite-mound structures can facilitate methane transport. Process links within the mound stabilize the filter efficiency. Moreover, we estimate undisturbed termite biomass via methane emissions. This knowledge is crucial to reduce uncertainty in global termite-derived methane emissions.”

The study may aid in further research to develop better methods to keep methane out of the atmosphere.

References: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/how-a-termite-s-mound-filters-methane-and-what-it-means-for-greenhouse-gases

https://www.upi.com/Termites-fart-methane-but-their-mounds-filter-it-from-the-air/4361543331512/

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/11/21/1809790115

Image Source: https://phys.org/news/2018-11-termite-mound-filters-methaneand-greenhouse.html

Posted By : ScienceIndia Administrator
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