This activity explores an image of termite mounds in the African savanna, which serves as a phenomenon for learning about ecosystems, competition, and feedback loops.
Termites play a crucial role in African savanna ecosystems. As termites move through their mounds, they change the texture of the soil, concentrate nutrients, and dig tunnels that improve water flow. The areas above their mounds thus become rich environments for both plants and animals. The image is an aerial photograph of termite mounds in Mozambique. The mounds are evenly spaced because neighboring termite colonies compete with each other for food and other resources.
The “Educator Materials” document includes background information and implementation suggestions for using the images as phenomena. The “Student Handout” includes the images and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Examine images of phenomena, make observations, and ask questions.
- Collaborate with peers on ideas, ask questions that require higher levels of reasoning, and develop deeper understanding of concepts.
- Describe how ecological factors can drive spatial patterns in ecosystems.
- Explain the role of termites in the African savanna ecosystem, and predict the consequences of removing termites from the ecosystem.
competition, ecosystem resilience, nutrient, positive feedback loop, savanna, spatial patterning, termite, vegetation
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6; SEP1
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-4.B, SYI-1.H; SP3
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.9, 2.7, 4.3
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.I, ERT-4.C, ENG-1.B, SP2
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)