The title may sound a little weird but one of the most extensively studied social animals have quite a significant role in global temperature increase. Methane (CH4) is an important greenhouse gas which absorbs long-wave radiation and due to its incredible long life-time in the atmosphere, it does not decay much.
Symbiotic microorganisms present inside termite, helps to break down cellulose and as a byproduct of this breakdown. In 1982, scientists group led by Zimmerman, able to calculate the amount of methane produced by single termite through closed chamber experiment. They conclude with a value of 0.4 ug CH4/termite/day. It does not sound too high!! Now imagine a single termite nest can hold up to two million termites and now suddenly the value seems significant as it reaches 0.5 Kg of Methane per year from a single nest.
New result indicates the exact number is around 20 million tonnes each year which makes termite 2nd in position in methane production competition through natural way, just after wetlands. Overall it contributes 5% of total methane budget in the world.
Now should we bother about our little friend?
Killing termite to control methane production is definitely not a solution as they play a major role in our ecosystem. Furthermore, this species is present in the earth long before humans do. But global warming is a very recent situation. Wetlands and termites help to balance ecological cycle in many ways and what I think is controlling anthropogenic sources of methane are more important than to spray poison over our little friend.