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It seems that ants may be helping to cool the Earth. That’s the suggestion of a recent study published in Geology by an Arizona State scientist named Ronald Dorn.

There are eight species of ants known to do something called “weathering,” where they take minerals in their environment and turn them into calcium bicarbonate, also known as limestone. In the process, the ants remove CO2 from the atmosphere and fix it in rocks. And this removing of CO2 from the atmosphere causes Earth’s temperature to cool. There are so many ants on Earth (their total biomass has been estimated to be as big as ours), that they may have a significant effect on Earth’s temperature.

The research involved analyzing what ants did to basalt sand, which Dorn and his team buried in six different spots in nature parks in Arizona and Texas. Then they periodically dug the basalt back up to see what the ants did to it. They found that the ants broke the basalt 50 to 300 times faster than normal erosion does. Dorn drew a parallel between what ants do to make limestone with the carbon sequestration that happens in the ocean.

Humans, then, aren’t the only species that have an effect on the environment. After all, the composition of our atmosphere—totally independent of humans—is heavily influenced by life on Earth. It was the photosynthesis of early cyanobacteria that oxygenated our atmosphere in the first place. Although it seems that people are having a pronounced effect on the Earth’s weather in a very short amount of time, it’s important to remember that the whole biosphere interacts with the gases, atmosphere, and weather of Earth in intricate ways we’re still very far from understanding.

Although ants may be doing some good, it’s not good if they’re in your house. Call us if you’ve got Nassau ants! We’ll deal with them so you can rest easy.


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