Termite mounds as bio-indicators of groundwater: Prospects and constraints

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Pertanika Journal of Science and Technology, 2018, 26 (2), pp. 479 - 498
Issue Date:
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© 2018 Universiti Putra Malaysia Press. Reliance on modern sophisticated equipment for making ‘discoveries’ has limited the human power of observing subtle clues in the environment that are capable of saving cost and labour that come with researching new resources and methods to improve life for all. Due to the growing scarcity of potable water, especially in African and Asian countries, newer, cheaper and reliable methods of investigating groundwater resources are becoming critical. One such potentially promising method is mapping the distribution of termite mounds in the environment. Termite mounds are conspicuous landscape features in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Built from surrounding soils by several species of termite, the properties of mound soil are relatively different from the surrounding soil in most cases, indicating improved hydraulic properties. In this paper, the aim is to review the possibility of employing termite mounds as prospecting tools for groundwater search from three spatial scales of observation. From assessing the smallest to the highest scale of observation, it can be concluded that termite mounds’ prospect as surface indicators of groundwater is apparent. Review findings indicate increased surface water infiltration, presence of riparian tree vegetation and other trees with tap-root system around termite mounds, linear assemblage of termite mounds along aquiferous dykes and seep-lines as well as the dependence of termites on water but avoidance of places with risk of inundation. Whether they indicate permanent groundwater reserves in all cases or whether all species depend largely on water for their metabolism is a subject for further research.
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