Termites, fungi, models, and climate change

From the University of Central Florida

Climate change models could have a thing or two to learn from termites and fungi, according to a new study released this week.

For a long time scientists have believed that temperature is the dominant factor in determining the rate of wood decomposition worldwide. Decomposition matters because the speed at which woody material are broken down strongly influences the retention of carbon in forest ecosystems and can help to offset the loss of carbon to the atmosphere from other sources. That makes the decomposition rate a key factor in detecting potential changes to the climate.

But scientists from Yale, the University of Central Florida and SUNY Buffalo State found that fungi and termites, which help break down wood, may play a more significant role in the rate of decomposition than temperature alone.

The group’s findings appear in this week’s edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The big surprise of this work was the realization that the impact of organisms surpassed climate as a control of decomposition across spatial scales,” said Joshua King, a biologist at UCF and co-author of the paper. “Understanding the ecology and biology of fungi and termites is a key to understanding how the rate of decomposition will vary from place to place.”

So how did scientists originally come up with temperature as the main factor in decomposition? It has to do with data and math. Scientists most often construct a model based on the average decomposition rates of sites that are in close proximity to each other. In this case, it appears that each local number matter because they reflect the activity of fungi and termites. The team suggests that scientists need to embrace the variability found across data collected from many different sites instead of averaging it all together to create better models with more accurate predictions.

The team reached this conclusion after running a 13-month experiment. They distributed 160 blocks of pine tree wood across five sub-regions of temperate forest in the eastern U.S. — from Connecticut to northern Florida — and then monitored the decay that occurred.

They selected similar forest types, hardwood deciduous forests, to focus on major differences in climate across the regional gradient. (The average annual temperature in southern New England is about 11 degrees Celsius cooler than Florida.) Within each of the five sub-regions they placed the wood blocks in different types of terrain to evaluate the effects of local versus regional factors as controls on decomposition.

“Most people would try to make sure everything was as standard as possible,” said Mark A. Bradford, an assistant professor of terrestrial ecosystem ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study. “We said, ‘Well, let’s generate as much variation as possible.’ So we put some blocks on south-facing slopes, where they would be warmer in the summer, and others on north-facing slopes where it’s colder. We put some on top of ridges and others next to streams where it was wetter.”

After 13 months, they measured how much wood had been lost, whether to the consumption of fungi growing on the wood or to termites consuming the wood.

According to their analysis, local-scale factors explained about three quarters of the variation in wood decomposition, while climate explained only about one quarter, contrary to the expectation that climate should be the predominant control.

“We’re reaching the wrong conclusion about the major controls on decomposition because of the way we’ve traditionally collected and looked at our data,” Bradford said. “That in turn will weaken the effectiveness of climate prediction.”

The team’s recommendation: collect more data at local sites and improve our understanding of how local conditions affect the organisms that drive decomposition, because they could significantly improve the effectiveness of climate change projections.

###

Co-authors of the study include: Robert J. Warren II from SUNY Buffalo State; Petr Baldrian from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; Thomas W. Crowther, Daniel S. Maynard and Emily E. Oldfield from Yale; William R. Wieder, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO and Stephen A. Wood from Columbia University.

The National Science Foundation and Yale Climate & Energy Institute funded the research.

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62 Responses to Termites, fungi, models, and climate change

  1. Eric Worrall says:

    Good grief, I’m shocked mainstream biology missed things as obvious as wetter / drier.

    I guess punching numbers into a computer is easier than fieldwork…

  2. Oldseadog says:

    The lat two paragraphs say it all, really.
    Don’t hold your breath waiting for the devout warmists to change their methods, though.

  3. Ashby Manson says:

    This reminds me of Salby’s chart showing parts of Africa as major CO2 sources…

  4. J Martin says:

    What ? real science !

    No “it must be co2 so give me more money” conclusion ?

  5. Ken says:

    The AGW crowd have got a firm handle on ALL of the variables. These termite/fungi people obviously have not gotten the news that the science is settled. They are wasting their time.

  6. cnxtim says:

    Whilst these campus climate clowns are spending down their generous endowments on inaccurate supercomputer programmes, sipping lattes in the the chic cafe’s, between jetting to seminars in 5 star locations, – nature keeps on building its overwhelming diversity and deepening mysteries – who woulda thunk??

  7. James Strom says:

    Hmm… They dropped blocks of pine in the midst of deciduous forests to test decomposition. Seems to me that might lead to surprises.

  8. Paul Jackson says:

    I would also be interested in have wood of a native species wood fare, dropping pine blocks into an eco-system that has self-optimized to decay maple or birch could be miss-leading.

  9. DrTorch says:

    Termite activity (cold blooded animal) and fungi are both possibly influenced by temp. So in the end, temp could be the dominant factor.

  10. Curious George says:

    Where did all that coal come from? Evil stuff, now causing carbon pollution, asthma attacks, and heart attacks (John Podesta, Counselor to the President).

  11. BioBob says:

    One word: DUH !

    Sure, go ahead and ignore the CO2 satellite numbers that show major sources of CO2 in the tropical rain forests. There is nothing really new here, simply the major DUH moment enforcing everything ecologists have discovered about rates of decomposition. CO2 has always been controlled by life on earth, mediated by temp & moisture, as evidenced by the teeny-tiny-eeniie-weenie CO2 number versus oxygen. We have just been waiting for all the AGW morons to have their AHA !! moment. Chalk another one reinforcing Salby & others (aside from plain common sense).

    Slow doods, very slow.

  12. BioBob says:

    @ Dr, Torch — not exactly…

    Termites CONTROL the ambient temperature inside their nests, which is why they build them so high above ground in areas with high surface temperature variability.

  13. William Abbott says:

    Temperature is a very important variable in wood decay. If it gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees. The organisms are essentially dormant. Shackleton’s huts eventually rotted in Antarctica; basically wood rots anywhere it grows. But wood rots fastest in the tropics. Nobody tests wood preservatives exclusively in northern latitudes. New wood preservatives are always tested in tropical latitudes. Termites don’t survive winters in northern climates unless they over-winter in artificially heated soil or wood. Wooden utility poles in the tropics never give the same sort of performance they do in higher latitudes. So much so, they are usually not the first choice for pole material. But… like climate there are lots of variables. Moisture, temperature, oxygen, soil pH. But the most variable of all is the wood destroying organisms themselves. Fungi which destroy wood are incredibly variable, poorly understood, wildly unpredictable in distribution.

    You could run the same experiment and move each location fifty miles and get very different results, but you might reach the same conclusion. A whole lot more going on than just temperature variation. Wood guys already know that.

  14. Jack says:

    Post normal -Nil, Nature – 1.

  15. Chris4692 says:

    Those who came up with temperature being the dominant factor probably never talked to an Egyptologist, archeologist, or museum curator.

  16. Sweet Old Bob says:

    Slightly off topic , but if you treat wood with Coper Brite ” termite proof ” then termites ,wood destroying beetles ,carpenter ants ,wood rot,and mold are all killed .
    Very effective !

  17. William Abbott says:

    Dr. Torch,

    There are about 3000 termite species. Almost all of them only found in the tropical latitudes. There are about 45 species in the United States. Almost all of them are in the south latitudes. I assure you, termites play a very insignificant role in the northern half of the United States. Fungal organisms are essentially the only meaningful vector for bio-degradation of wood in most of the world. Structural wood in buildings is the only place you have termite activity in areas where the frost sets in soil annually. There are exceptions, but they are not of significance.

  18. William Abbott says:

    Sweet Old Bob, Using Copper Brite as an insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, or rodenticide is a violation of federal law. A felony, I believe. Without an EPA pesticide label, its a no no. Selling Copper Brite for that intended purpose is where they would really get you; advertising pesticide claims without a label.

  19. Latitude says:

    oh good grief…….use pressure treated

  20. Sweet Old Bob says:

    William Abbott umm.. the termite prufe can says “effective against : termites beetles (wood destroying)carpenter ants wood rot and mold “. I think I will take their word for it.

  21. hunter says:

    This is a good illustation of the problem that occurs when one is only selling hammers: Every problem looks like a nail.
    The climate obsessed are selling CO2, so every question looks like global warming.

  22. Zeke says:

    Co-author Joshua King’s work in studying invasive species of social insects: “In my lab we study community assembly and species invasions at multiple scales in the context of natural and human-altered landscapes. One of the overarching themes of the research program is to understand the fundamental mechanisms that drive species invasions associated with land-use changes.”

    His papers on that site deal mostly in exotic ants in Florida and fire ants, but termites are a social insect and very very invasive, so that goes only a little way in explaining his presence in this study distributing pine blocks in the five regions of US forests….
    “““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““
    What is the most evil termite? My nomination is Formosan, which eats live trees. “Formosan termites cause the same type of damage as the other subterranean termites. They cause more rapid damage than native subterranean termites. They have been known to attack more than 47 plant species, including citrus, wild sherry, cherry laurel, sweet gum, cedar, willow, wax myrtle, Chinese elm and white oak. Formosan termites feed on both the spring growth and the summer growth wood. They have also been known to eat through non-cellulose material, such as thin sheets of soft metal (lead or copper), asphalt, plaster, creosote, rubber, and plastic,searching for food and moisture.”

  23. David Riser says:

    William Abbott,
    Not sure where you get your information from. Termites are found in every state in the US except Alaska. They tend to stick to forested areas primarily and they eat quite a bit of wood. The only reason they are more obvious in Florida is there are more flying versions of termites down there and are harder to control. They aren’t a huge issue anywhere because Orkin has a good handle on them and we (people) tend to defend our homes vigorously. Folks who don’t pay attention to termites will once they lose a wall or floor to them. If you want a better feel for termites go walk in the woods, even northern woods have quite a lot of them. If you struggle to identify whether you looking at a ant or termite, ants have a tapered abdomen and bent antenna, whereas termites have straight antenna and abdomen.
    As for using pesticides its perfectly legal to both purchase and use iaw with the manufacturers label.
    Finally rot in wood is not what they were measuring, rather decomposition. Wood rots for a lot of reasons, houses are not a good reference for activity since man does what he can to stop it. The scientists in this piece actually planted wood and came back and looked at it. So I think Ill believe their collected data rather than your silly postulation with no supporting data.
    v/r,
    David Riser

  24. BioBob says:

    William Abbott says: June 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm termites play a very insignificant role in the northern half of the United States
    —————————
    Perhaps it would be better to say that termite diversity and overall colony abundance decrease as conditions become colder. Termites in coastal areas of all northern states can be locally very abundant and destroy homes, decompose wood, etc. Species can be found in very cold places like Massachusetts, Montana, Washington, etc. but admittedly not in the kind of overall abundance seen in the more southern states.

    With insects, absolute conclusions are not going to hold up since there are ALWAYS exceptions given the large diversity of the groups involved.

  25. Stephen Skinner says:

    “The big surprise of this work was the realization that the impact of organisms surpassed climate as a control of decomposition across spatial scales,” said Joshua King, a biologist at UCF and co-author of the paper. “Understanding the ecology and biology of fungi and termites is a key to understanding how the rate of decomposition will vary from place to place.”

    No s**t Sherlock

  26. Zeke says:

    Background of Stephan A Wood of Columbia, a typical sample specimen of the progressive scientist, whose main gift to the world is keeping the browns down Africa:

    “My dissertation research aims to elucidate how recent efforts to increase crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa through the African Green Revolution are impacting the structure of soil microbial communities and their ability to cycle nutrients in soil. My research is conducted through several of the Millennium Villages Project sites.

    I am also actively working on the following topics: smallholder farmer adaptation to climate change; nutritional diversity of agricultural systems and contribution to human health; the role of crop diversity in maintaining ecosystem functioning; the controls on soil organic matter dynamics.”

    The progressive scientists have always opposed the work of Norman Borlaug and are now as busy as ever reversing and stopping any advances in agriculture for that continent. As usual, the cause celebre is the soil microbe and the purity of local species. He is funded by this Millenium Villages Project, which advances the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. This agenda would make sure that Africa stays in the dark, using worthless sustainable energy sources.

  27. Max Erwengh says:

    This is quite interesting, and I guess the “consensus” of rotting wood :) . So the question is: Does this affect tree ring analysis?

  28. Latitude says:

    William Abbott says:
    June 6, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Sweet Old Bob, Using Copper Brite as an insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, or rodenticide is a violation of federal law. A felony, I believe. Without an EPA pesticide label, its a no no. Selling Copper Brite for that intended purpose is where they would really get you; advertising pesticide claims without a label.
    =============

  29. Don says:

    Right, Zeke, who needs those pesky soil microbes? Soil is nothing but a convenient medium for physical root support. Kill ‘em all, I say! Dominate nature chemically! We’re so damn smart, what could possibly go wrong?

  30. David Riser says:

    Not sure that the guy Zeke is talking about is a monster. He seems to be an honest doctoral student working in the field, collecting data and trying to get his PHD. Not sure by looking at his website that he has a “evil” agenda.

  31. Alan Robertson says:

    Don says:
    June 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Right, Zeke, who needs those pesky soil microbes? Soil is nothing but a convenient medium for physical root support. Kill ‘em all, I say! Dominate nature chemically! We’re so damn smart, what could possibly go wrong?
    _____________________
    That’s taking things a lot too far. A lot.
    Also, what Zeke said about the Greens and Norman Borlaug is correct as Dr. Borlaug is credited with saving the lives of a billion human beings through his work ushering in the Green Revolution of agriculture. Dr. Borlaug’s work is anathema to the Greens, because their most fundamental belief is that too many human beings exist and that human populations must be reduced. Human populations would indeed crash using only “organic” practices. There isn’t enough manure and bone meal in the world, nor phosphorus available in composting, nor non- hybrid crops with sufficient yield to feed us all.
    I am a gardener and lose a certain % crops to wee beasties, because I haven’t used any pesticides or things like that for the 16+ yrs I’ve been at it, but employ other practical methods, such as attraction of beneficial insect and I also have access to horses…

    If you’d like to discuss this or Zeke’s comment further, without being a smarta$$, then have at it.

  32. CopperBrite says:

    @ Abbot,Latitude,others relevant:
    http://www.copperbrite.com/termite.html (Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate)
    http://www.rosemill.com/v/html/msds/dot_MSDS.pdf
    (MSDS for Disodium octaborate tetrahydrate, especially note section 9 and how LITTLE federal regulation there is for this material)

  33. David Riser says:

    Don,
    I think the point is that Zeke is over reacting a bit. Unless he knows the person he is blasting and has some serious dirt on the poor fellow I would say that conflating being a person interested in research in Africa (someone who by his pictures on his website has been there in person to collect DATA) with being anti Norman Borlaug is a bit of a stretch. Particularly since the kind of research he is doing is the same type of research that allowed Norman Borlaug to be so successful!

  34. RH says:

    Expect another paper on termite flatulence.

  35. I did not see Anthony Watts mentioning whether the variation of wood decomposition with temperature was as expected, more, or less, or if the study mentioned an expected rate of variation with temperature. All I saw was mention of great variation with local conditions other than temperature, such as presence of fungi and termites. Fungi, termites, molds, and bacteria decompose wood faster in warmer temperatures, up to some point.

  36. Zeke says:

    The rate of decomposition of organic matter by soil organisms is affected by moisture, temperature, particle size, the carbon to nitrogen ratio, and nitrogen availability. The proper balance of carbon and nitrogen is needed for rapid decomposition as well as warm temperatures and adequate moisture. When using straw, leaves, or sawdust (which are high in carbon) you will need to add nitrogen fertilizer while the material is decomposing. Nitrogen is used by soil microbes during decomposition and may become deficient for your intended plants.

  37. Zeke says:

    Alan Robertson says in part, “There isn’t enough manure and bone meal in the world, nor phosphorus available in composting, nor non- hybrid crops with sufficient yield to feed us all.”

    The reason it came up is because of the description of this Dr. Wood’s work in exploring the environmental impacts of “the Green Revolution in Africa.” The historical precedence of the opposition to Norman Borlaug’s work by “fashionable elitists in the west” is worthy of re-iterating, as often as it comes up – and indeed the protests and assaults have used the same arguments since Borlaug first averted famine in Mexico and helped it become a net exporter of wheat rather than a poor importer.

    As chemical fertilizers simply meet the nutritional needs of these high yield, dwarf varieties, they must work together.

    The use of fertilizers for crops have gone on for at least 70 years in many parts of the US, and rather than creating a barren desert of dead soil microbes, the amount of food that can be grown on a single acre is now five times what could be grown even in the 1930’s. To use land to this level of efficiency is truly transformative for the farmer and for the country that has these chemical fertilizers and crop varieties. This and herbicides spare people countless hours of human drudgery bending over to weed. And this is why Norman Borlaug considered himself a conservationist!

    And one more for the road – the microbes themselves love the Nitrogen and use it to break down the organic matter added to amend the soil!:

    [see above quote: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/06/06/termites-fungi-models-and-climate-change/#comment-1656074 ]

  38. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always interesting to read through articles from
    other writers and practice something from other web sites.

  39. David Riser says:

    So Zeke your bashing someone based on motives you have given him due to a description of his research. A description that is pretty basic and has absolutely zero with what your accusing him of being. A bit harsh I would think. Not everyone who is interested in conservation, microbes, fertilizer, farming etc is out to kill a good chunk of the population. There are certainly some whackadoodles out there but they are a pretty tiny minority.
    v/r,
    David Riser

  40. Zeke says:

    David Riser says:
    June 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm “So Zeke your bashing someone based on motives you have given him due to a description of his research.”

    What I have done is provide the history of the issues surrounding Norman Borlaug’s work and the opposition to it by greens. It is worthy of repeating this history for each generation to examine.

    Similarities between Dr. Wood’s work on “environmental impacts” on soil from “Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution in Africa” are purely coincidental and it is up to the objective observer to decide on whether that similarity to past obstructions is significant or not.

  41. John F. Hultquist says:

    I’ve had various types and sizes of wood carefully thrown around here for many years. It all looks about the way it did when so placed. If I want it to change I can cover it with biomass from horses and pour water on it once a week when the temperature is above freezing. Otherwise, nothing much happens. If the researchers will send some nice pine boards my way I can use some for a project an experiment and send along the results. [It is hot and dry in the summer here and cold in the winter. Maybe that will be a problem.]

  42. Alan Robertson says:

    David Riser says:
    June 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    ” Not everyone who is interested in conservation, microbes, fertilizer, farming etc is out to kill a good chunk of the population. There are certainly some whackadoodles out there but they are a pretty tiny minority.”
    v/r,
    David Riser
    ________________________
    David,
    The problem lies in thinking that those people are “whackadoodles” and don’t wield any power or hold sway over political decisions at the highest levels. Not only do any number of the elites (and very many of the rank and file Greenies) hold the beliefs that humans must be reduced and the world must be de- industrialized, but their ideas are manifested everywhere in the Green politics of the Western world. It may be difficult to accept that those people believe as they do, or cause others to implement their plans, but they do. Just use the metric of those green goals mentioned above, whenever there is any sort of government decision regarding climate and see if the possible result of implementation might be the loss of “sustainability” for individuals, i.e., human deaths resulting from green laws. Consider the tens if thousands of known deaths in Great Britain during the past few years as a direct result of green laws. Great Britain! Where is the outcry?

    Here is just a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg…
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2014/04/is-america-an-oligarchy.html
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/01/20/davos-2014-oxfam-85-richest-people-half-world/4655337/
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/9959856/Its-the-cold-not-global-warming-that-we-should-be-worried-about.html

    The following list of quotes bears a caveat- some of the quotes are likely to have been taken out of context and may misrepresent the beliefs of the individuals quoted, but you will see a pattern of thought. One particularly heinous quote from Maurice Strong is out of context, but accurate insofar as it was given by him in terms of “What if someone believed…” when anyone familiar with the body of that billionaire’s efforts over the years would know that his words reflected his own thoughts.
    http://www.c3headlines.com/global-warming-quotes-climate-change-quotes.html

  43. Alan Robertson says:

    i would add that the link above: http://www.c3headlines.com/global-warming-quotes-climate-change-quotes.html contains at least one quote which is known to be decidedly wrong and out of context, made by Dr. Daniel Botkin. That quote has been discussed in these pages and is a complete misrepresentation of Dr. Botkin’s own words.

  44. Steve O says:

    I would think the amount of decaying wood would be the deciding factor, which is determined by the amount of living wood and a lag time.

  45. If you control for termites, fungus, & humidity, temperature mysteriously becomes the largest factor in wood destruction! In other late breaking news, Generalissimo Franco is still dead.

  46. spangled drongo says:

    Different timbers have different rates of decomposition but to compare one of the most durable in the world which is also accurately classified for quality, the US Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata, that is widely used around the world for roof shingles and shakes, seems to indicate that variation in decomposition rate is probably mainly due to UV.

    At similar latitudes it seems to last ~ twice as long in the northern hemisphere as the southern hem and I can only put that down to the increase in UV in the SH.

    WRC is a timber that is naturally very resistant to termites and fungi so that when you eliminate that possibility it seems that UV has much more influence than temperature.

  47. gymnosperm says:

    Never underestimate the fungi, however, they prefer it hot and wet. Termites too. Ants exceed the biomass of humans on our planet and I bet termites are right in there. The two are mortal enemies.

    The real question is why is this a big deal for the models? It is all on the respiration side of the ledger, sucking O2 and producing CO2. The models have plenty of CO2 to work with. Their problem is it doesn’t do anything.

  48. Zeke says:

    Sorry about writing a distracted sentence up there. I just meant the Dr Wood’s studies on the environmental impacts on the soil structure in Africa are very very similar to previous obstructions to Norman Borlaug’s work. If that is a coincidence at least let the objective observer decide for himself.

    Organic agriculture by definition emphasizes soil biological activity. What I wish every one would keep in mind is that fewer than 1% of the farms in the US are organic. There is a reason for this. It is either inexcusably ignorant to try to commit Africa to sustainable organic farming, or it is most malicious. So David Riser is correct, I have no respect for this kind of heartless environmentalism.

  49. ferdberple says:

    The team suggests that scientists need to embrace the variability found across data collected from many different sites instead of averaging it all together
    ===============
    Edward Deming taught this. That variance, not average is what must be measured. Ignored by America he went to Japan. The death of the American car industry. 100 thousand abandoned houses and factories abandoned in Detroit is the result.

    Climate science is repeating the same mistake. Concentrating on averages they are missing the message. One foot in the oven and the other in the freezer I’m on average comfortable. But the variance says otherwise.

  50. CRS, DrPH says:

    I’m surprised the authors didn’t mention the prolific methane production from termites, who digest the cellulose and vent massive quantities to the atmosphere. This was discussed widely in the 1980s:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB119343257149773265

    How much methane these little wood chompers waft into the atmosphere is a mystery, however. A few years ago, Dr. Zimmerman and his colleagues dragged nests of two different termite species into the lab and measured their methane output. They then estimated the bugs produced 150 million metric tons of methane a year world-wide, but said the estimate could be off by 50% either way.

  51. Mark Luhman says:

    David Riser

    I don’t know where you get your information. Termites do not exist in Minnesota, North Dakota and or Montana, there may be some in very southern Minnesota but where the forest exist in Minnesota they do not. As a life long resident of Minnesota and North Dakota home inspection never requires a termite inspection, they simple do not exist, I assume that a frost line of over 48 inches deep prohibits [their] existence as side note last winter Fargo’s frost line exceeded six foot a lack of snow and cold temperatures cause people water lines to freeze even most are at least six feet down.. Now I live in Arizona and yes home inspection do require a termite inspection. As to rotting wood the determine factor is the amount of moisture the wetter is is the quicker it deteriorates, a hot dry summer not so much a hot wet summer a lot. Any home owner should know that moisture is the enemy of wood, rot does not occur in a home normally unless moisture is present. That why a broken windows are fatal to an abandon or vacant house. Termites might exist here in Arizona but the fuels load up on the rim can only be controlled but fire that is true for almost all of the Ponderosa pine forest through out the west, there not enough moisture even for termites, Termites need moisture here in the valley that is the one sure way to attract termites, moisture and wood. Not just wood alone. Again this story points out how our agents of smart are so smart, unfortunately that seem to be rampant through out academia. Any

  52. David Riser says:

    So Mark, got to say you must have never purchased a house while you lived in those states. The permafrost line is in Canada almost 500 miles north of the border and strangely you can get termite service in Fargo ND, just like every other major city in the continental US and Hawaii. I will say that there is an urban legend about termites in the north, unfortunately quite a few folks have learned that the hard way. Check out this Real Estate blog from St Paul… http://www.stpaulrealestateblog.com/2006/08/termites_no_way.html
    v/r,
    David Riser

  53. BioBob says:

    Termites do not exist in Minnesota, North Dakota and or Montana
    ——————————————
    The termites would argue with you if they could talk. There are a number of termite species recorded from Montana. Like this one:

    “Zootermopsis angusticollis – Most are found in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and in southern British Columbia.”

    Or this one: “The Nevada Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis nevadensis) is found in the mountain basins of Nevada, Idaho and Montana.”

    Or this one: “The eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) is found in three-quarters of the continental United States. It can be found from Maine to Florida and from Montana to the Gulf Coast in Texas.”

    In fact, it is trivial to find records of termites in Montana. Boink !!

  54. Alan Robertson says:

    CRS, DrPH says:
    June 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    “They then estimated the bugs produced 150 million metric tons of methane a year world-wide, but said the estimate could be off by 50% either way“.
    ______________________
    Move those error bars out to 100% and they could get a job with the IPCC.

  55. Shawn Jaeger says:

    ferdberple says:
    June 6, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    ===============
    Edward Deming taught this. That variance, not average is what must be measured. Ignored by America he went to Japan. The death of the American car industry. 100 thousand abandoned houses and factories abandoned in Detroit is the result.
    ================
    While quality issues were certainly a contributing factor to the the car industry issues, Detroit’s problems go much deeper, straight to it’s leadership, the voters of that leadership, and the decisions of people the leadership hires.

    A city doesn’t go from having the highest per capita income in the nation (1960) to having nearly 80,000 abandoned homes (2013) simply because an industry “went south.” Many things could have been done to reinvent itself after the crash as many cities that lost manufacturing jobs did.

    Seriously bad leadership, seriously bad decisions, and seriously bad voter choices were larger contributing factors. The ineptitude and mismanagement was really inexcusable, especially once the American car industry erosion was well on its way and everyone could see it.

    The governance structure change in the early 70’s did not help and the mayor is a strong position in Detroit. It has been run by Democrat mayors continuously since 1962.

    Say what you will but that is quite an accomplishment for a string of leaders with similar thought and outlook – to basically run a city from being one of the most desirable and wealthy places in America to the bottom of the barrel in 40 years.

    .

  56. David Chorley says:

    Let us remember that termites produce more CO2 thank mankind (which supports the hypothesis that CO2 increase follows warming) and that methane is a non-starter in the heat absorption race because its spectrum is entirely duplicated by H2O

  57. Zeke said @ June 6, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    What I have done is provide the history of the issues surrounding Norman Borlaug’s work and the opposition to it by greens. It is worthy of repeating this history for each generation to examine.

    And it’s completely irrelevant to the issue of the introduction of organic farming practises. You appear to be as completely ignorant of what that means as the greens who give lip-service to the concept. You wrote above that only 1% of US farmland is farmed organically without providing a scintilla of evidence. It might well be true that only 1% of US farmland is officially certified as organic, but there are plenty of farmers who have adopted organic technologies without being in the least bit interested in the official organic bureaucracy.

    Example: quite a long time ago my conventional orcharding neighbour asked me what I was using to control Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM). I told him I was using Dipel (Bacillus Thuringiensis var. Berliner), but that I suspected it might be more expensive than his usual chemical control (back then Carbaryl IIRC). A year later my neighbour reported that Dipel was dramatically less expensive even though the material cost was higher; it required application only once every six weeks, rather than weekly. The main cost of control was the time and equipment costs, not the control ingredient.

    There’s quite a lot to this farming lark that people not directly involved do not appreciate. Most of the farmers I know will use any technique that improves the bottom line and don’t give a tinker’s curse for armchair theorists demands that they hew to some old-fashioned concepts from the middle of the last century.

    Story here about a Tasmanian potato farmer adopting an organic technology:

    http://www.theland.com.au/news/agriculture/horticulture/general-news/half-the-effort-double-the-spuds/2671885.aspx

  58. Patrick says:

    “The Pompous Git says:

    June 8, 2014 at 1:29 am

    Most of the farmers I know will use any technique that improves the bottom line and don’t give a tinker’s curse for armchair theorists demands that they hew to some old-fashioned concepts from the middle of the last century.”

    Indeed and well said that man!

  59. philippe (Alsace) says:

    Philippe (Alsace)
    some though and interesting remarks have already been done so I will be short. Concerning Zeke’s comment on SA Wood i think he’s right in that wherever the words “climate change” are mentioned it smells bad…but as other readers seemed to suggest it is important to consider microbes in the cycle of carbon or nitrogen basically, no matter if organic farming or conventional one.
    About termites, there is a such diversity between species, some of them being able to assimilate directly the wood without the help of fungi or bacteria, some other needing the help of endosymbiontic bacteria, that I Wonder why nobody did precise that and the possible interaction of that with abiotic factors. At least the authors should have indentified the fungi or termites community in each site of the study that can be accounted for the degradation of the wood.

  60. William Abbott says:

    Termites do not thrive at all in areas where the ground freezes. Yes there are northern termite colonies established in and under buildings and those colonies overwinter. But any colony that gets established in a forest or in woodlands gets wiped out when winter comes (normal winter). Most termite species and the most prevalent termite species are subterranean termites. If someone knows of a termite species that can overwinter in below freezing temperatures, please list its name and habitat. Termites are not like ants. They do not survive freezing temperatures.

  61. William Abbott said @ June 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Termites do not thrive at all in areas where the ground freezes.

    Cryoprotection in dampwood termites (Termopsidae, Isoptera)
    Michael J. Lacey*, Michael Lenz, Theodore A. Evans
    Abstract

    In contrast to the majority of the Order, the dampwood termites of the family Termopsidae found in
    colder regions can experience frost and snow, either in cool temperate areas at high latitudes (458), or alpine areas at high elevations (>1000 m). This suggests that dampwood termites are adapted to cold climates. We investigated this hypothesis in two dampwood termites, Porotermes adamsoni Froggatt and Stolotermes victoriensis Hill. We measured nest temperatures and atmospheric temperatures of their alpine habitat during winter, and measured survival and recovery at subzero temperatures. We also determined the minimum temperature at which these species remain active and the LT50 values. We used a novel gas chromatographic strategy to examine eight metabolites from individuals of both species collected in winter and summer to identify possible cryoprotectants. Both P. adamsoni and S. victoriensis had significantly higher levels of trehalose, a known cryoprotectant, in winter than in summer; in addition S. victoriensis also had higher levels of unsaturated fatty acid ligands in winter than in summer, consistent with patterns observed for cold adaptation in other organisms. These results are the first to reveal that dampwood termites are adapted to cold climates and use trehalose and unsaturated lipids as
    cryoprotectants.

    http://web.as.uky.edu/Biology/faculty/cooper/bio350/Bio350%20Labs/WK13-temp%20Lab/termites%20in%20cold.pdf

  62. Willybamboo says:

    Ok, the exception proves the rule. A few Termites can take a little cold. This article substantiates that. But it’s Australia. Sub-zero is Celsius. Alpine is 1000 meters. BTW, subterranean termites in N America can take a little cold. But we’re not talking Kansas cold or Maine or Germany or Russia. Termites in those higher latitudes with harsh winters are not responsible for any meaningful percentage of wood decomposition. Thanks for posting the paper. Its interesting.

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