Ants have often been acclaimed for their skill and benefits. It has long been known that ants are responsible for soil aeration and decomposing decaying matter. Now, new research has discovered that ants may also be having a positive effect on climate change. Ants secrete limestone (calcium carbonate) into the soil, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere by trapping it in soil and rock.
This limestone production is similar to carbon sequestration that occurs in the ocean. These limestone deposits are a key factor in storing and decomposing carbon from the earth’s atmosphere.
Research has monitored ants extensively to track this process and to determine what impact it has. Experiments have discovered that ants break down magnesium and calcium minerals 50 to 300 times faster than naturally occurs in soil. Interestingly, it was also found that the ants were in fact storing limestone deposits in their nests.
As this research is still in the early stages, the amount of gaseous transformation that occurs has not yet been determined, but it appears certain that ants are playing an important role in the process of carbon fixation. And with the vast number of ants working effectively around the globe, there’s potential for a big impact!
Eight ant species are known to secrete calcium carbonate in some form. Ant expert E.O. Wilson, a professor at Harvard University, once estimated that the total biomass of ants on earth is equal to that of humans.
It is also comforting to know that while humans persist in finding new ways to exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution, ants are striving to remedy the situation.