Insects have significant impact on severity of bushfires: Aussie research

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 6, 2020
Adjust font size:

CANBERRA, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers have revealed how animals can affect bushfires in unexpected ways.

In a study published on Thursday, the team from Australian National University (ANU), Charles Darwin University, the University of Tasmania and the University of Western Australia found that birds, termites and elephants can all act as ecosystem "engineers".

They detailed how animals can inadvertently reduce or enhance the spread and severity of bushfires by eating grass, making tracks and building nests.

"A lot of the things that make a plant good to eat are the things that make it hard to burn," lead author Claire Foster from ANU said.

"When you take out all the nutritious, palatable plants, those left over tend to be drier and more flammable."

While the impact of large grazers such as cattle, goats and rhinoceros on bushfires has been established in previous studies, the Australian team examined the effects that smaller species can have.

"Some of the animals we don't necessarily think of are the insects that, by feeding on leaves, stimulate the production of defensive chemicals in the plants, changing the flammability of their leaves," Foster said.

"One of the most amazing examples is from savanna ecosystems with termites."

"They create massive structures where a huge variety of other animals choose to live. These 'nutrient islands' attract large herbivores that preferentially graze around the termite mounds, making them less likely to burn and creating a safety zone during moderate-severity bushfires."

The team will next investigate the effects of kangaroos and wallabies on bushfires in Australian forests. Enditem

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from