Moving beyond the distinction between the bright and dark sides of termites to achieve sustainable development goals

Elsevier, Current Opinion in Insect Science, Volume 40, 2020, Pages 71-76, ISSN 2214-5745
Pascal Jouquet, Saran Traoré, Ajay Harit, Chutinan Choosai, Sougueh Cheik, Nicolas Bottinelli

Termites are amongst the main macroinvertebrate decomposers in tropical ecosystems and they exert additional impacts through the creation of biostructures (mounds, galleries, sheetings, etc.) with different soil physical and chemical properties, thereby impacting positively on numerous ecosystem services for humankind. Unfortunately, this positive or ‘bright’ role of termites is often overshadowed by their ‘dark’ side, that is, their status as pests threatening agriculture and constructions. This article assesses advances in our knowledge of the impact of termites on several sustainable development goals (SDGs 1 ‘no poverty’, 2 ‘zero hunger’, 3 ‘good health’, 9 ‘innovation’, 11 ‘sustainable cities’, 13 ‘climate action’ and 15 ‘life on land’). Finally, using the Indian myth of Valmiki as a parable, we illustrate that a reconciliation between the termite's dark and bright sides is needed if we want to reduce our dramatic impact on biodiversity and more generally achieve SDGs.