Insects Are Rapidly Disappearing In Puerto Rico's Rainforests

Posted: Oct 19 2018, 2:07pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 19 2018, 2:09pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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Insects are Rapidly Disappearing in Puerto Rican Rainforests
Credit: Radboud University

Two degrees Celsius rise in temperature of tropical forests is linked to massive insect loss.

Researchers have documented a sharp decline in invertebrate animal populations such as insects and millipedes found in tropical forests of northeastern Puerto Rico. Arthropods have declined by 60 fold since mid 1970s and climate change is largely to blame for this crisis.

Average temperature in Puerto Rico's rainforests has already reached or exceeded two degrees Celsius. As the temperature continues to rise, it can have potentially damaging effects on ecosystems.

“Our results suggest that the effects of climate warming in tropical forests may be even greater than anticipated," said lead author Brad Lister from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. "The insect populations in the Luquillo forest are crashing, and once that begins the animals that eat the insects have insufficient food, which results in decreased reproduction and survivorship and consequent declines in abundance.”

Tropical insects like those in the forest of Luquillo could be especially sensitive to minute changes in climate because these species are adapted to relatively stable temperatures throughout the year. The massive insect loss had cascading effects on food web.

To understand the impact of climate change on arthropod population, researchers used sticky traps to collect species on the ground and in the forest canopy. Then, they assessed the biomass and reported changes over time. Researchers found that biomass trapped in 2013 was 60 times less than that in 1976. As arthropods dropped, a dramatic decrease was also observed in Luquillo’s lizards, frogs, and birds.

In past few decades, the biomass of flying insects in Germany has also decreased by more than 75 percent. Insects have been disappearing in the nature reserves of Europe and North America as well. Given that tropical forests account for two thirds of the Earth's species, these results have implications for the future stability and biodiversity of rainforest ecosystems.

“If anything, I think their results and caveats are understated. The gravity of their findings and ramifications for other animals, especially vertebrates, is hyperalarming,” said David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved in the study. “The decline of insects in northern Europe precedes that of climate change there. Likewise, in New England, some tangible declines began in the 1950s.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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