Researchers from the Center for Geogenetics and the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen have published a study in the Journal of Animal Ecology stating that climate change is starting to impact on biodiversity as can be seen from the changes occurring in insects collected over a rooftop in Denmark.
Within a space of 18 years, scientists collected 1,543 species of moths and beetles as well as over 250,000 other insect species from the Copenhagen roof of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, and a thorough study of the insects show the effects of climate change on them.
"As temperature increases we see a corresponding change in the insect community, specifically for the resource specialists - the insects that feed on only one species of plant. Earlier studies have confirmed that specialist species also respond rapidly to destruction of their habitats, so we are dealing with a very sensitive group of animals" said Philip Francis Thomsen, a post-doctoral volunteer from the Center for Geogenetics and one of the lead authors.
Another lead author, Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, PhD from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate noted that more insects that feed only on specific diet may retreat north while new specialists come from the south. “This trend is theoretically expected but extremely rare to confirm with observations across this many species. Insects are often over-looked and under prioritized for long term studies."
Ole Karsholt and Jan Pedersen, entomological experts and employees with the Natural History Museum of Denmark developed the hobby of collecting and identifying all insects from a rooftop, between 1992 and 2009, and this developed into a faunal study of climate change.
Philip Francis Thomsen noted that "Long-term monitoring, even without a pre-defined purpose, can be of incredible value when trying to understand and predict biodiversity in a changing world.” He added that without the pastime of the two insect collectors, the whole world would remain ignorant of the species of insect species in Denmark and other parts of Europe. “We hope this study can push nature monitoring back onto the political agenda,” he said.
Ole Karsholt and Jan Pedersen were able to identify seven new moth species and two new beetle species which were registered for the first time, including the multicolored Asian lady beetle which is not being considered invasive, having spread to the entire country.
Each group of new insect species was analyzed for temperature change and how this affected their habitat range in Europe for the 18 years they were collected and analyzed.
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"The results confirm that climate change is impacting biodiversity right now. It is not something that will happen far into the future or only if we reach a two degree temperature increase" says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.