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Will Climate Change Allow Termite Populations in North America to Spread?

Termite Control

An article in Earth Magazine argues that global climate change has implications for the abundance of termites in areas where they are not currently common.

| February 26, 2010

A recent article in Earth Magazine titled “Termites and climate change: Here, there and everywhere?” written by the U.S. Forest Service, argues that global climate change has implications for the abundance of termites in areas where they are not currently common.

Peterson notes that the “area of North America that is of immediate concern for termites — from the Gulf of Mexico to the southern shores of Canada’s Hudson Bay — is predicted to see an increase in annual mean temperature of 3 degrees to more than 4 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. Areas even farther north are expected to warm to an even greater degree and experience higher precipitation, especially in the East. But more than higher annual temperatures, it’s the winter temperature increases that matter the most. In the area of immediate concern, winter temperatures are predicted to increase by up to 7 degrees Celsius, and extreme cold events are expected to decrease in frequency.

“This portends problems. Most termites die off during the winter in areas where the ground freezes: Most species cannot survive sustained temperatures below 9 degrees Celsius, and even fewer can survive temperatures below 1 degree Celsius. Thus the increase in the winter temperature in the North will affect termite populations largely because as winter temperatures warm, termites may be better able to survive winters in more northern climates. Scientists don’t know exactly how termites spend the winter in areas where the depth to which the soil freezes (the frost line) is significantly deep, but researchers assume that termites survive in soil below the frost line. Central heating might also help termites to survive, with the assumption being that heated basements keep soil above freezing throughout the year.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Source: Earth Magazine

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