If dead plant matter, such as leaves, wood, and plant stems were to continuously pile up on the ground surface, atmospheric oxygen, nitrogen and UV light would cease to be absorbed by the soil, which would put an end to vegetation growth. Of course, if this were to happen, the world would become inhospitable to basically all forms of life on earth. However, several organisms maintain ecosystem balance by converting woody plant matter into components that promote soil fertility. Soft plant matter degrades rapidly, but tough structural tissue in plants, and particularly, wood, cannot be sufficiently broken down by natural elements alone. This tough structural plant tissue is known as “cellulose,”and some of the organisms that are responsible for converting cellulose into components that enhance the arability of topsoil include, but are not limited to, ants, termites, and fungus.
The relative abundance of these three organisms varies by ecoregion. For example, in the wet and humid tropical and subtropical regions of the world, vegetation grows rapidly, and therefore, all three of these cellulose-digesting organisms will have to be particularly abundant in order to digest the massive amount of plant waste that accumulates on the topsoil in these moist ecoregions. However, in the Sonoran Desert, the arid climate does not favor fungal growth, which makes termites particularly important as decomposers of dead plant matter in desert regions. It is for this reason that subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites are particularly prevalent in southern Arizona.
Naturally, when urban and suburban centers are developed over termite-rich desert landscapes, termite infestations become epidemic within newly built timber-framed homes. The termite infestation rates in Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Yuma and Bisbee used to be exceptionally high, but the introduction of more effective termite-prevention treatments, and a greater public awareness of the termite-threat in urban and suburban areas, has greatly reduced the annual rate of termite-induced property damage in southern Arizona.
Do you make it a rule to have at least one termite inspection performed by licensed professional before buying a home in southern Arizona?