Some termite species attack living trees, doing considerable damage to forests exploited for commercial purposes and constituting a serious brake on forest development, particularly in tropical areas of developing countries. The termites causing maximum damage to plantations belong to the genera Odontotermes and Microtermes, which are fungus-growing species. They commence their attack in the upper 15-25 cm of the soil. The tap-root is ring barked, often extending for some distance above the soil, which usually results in the death of the plant. In addition, other species attack wood used for fencing or housing purposes.
Other species of termites, particularly the large mound-building termite, impact grasslands in two ways, contributing to the desertification of North Africa. Termites can consume as much plant material as livestock and game animals combined thus increasing competition for forage, especially during drought. Termites also modify large quantities of soil through mound building and recycling of organic matter.
A survey in Australia, for example, showed that losses due to termites far exceeded those due to decay or fire and accounted for up to 80% of total losses. Calculated on a lost-royalty basis, rejected logs cost forest management from $12 to $120 per acre.