"One of the great beauties of this approach is that it allows us to retrace the life history of some really obscure players in the game", explains Gergely Vrkonyi, an international expert of parasitic wasps involved in the project. "In almost any system, some of the predators will be really hard to investigate. As larvae, some of our target predators attack their prey when they are hidden in the ground or vegetation, where we humans will never discover them. By instead looking for prey remains in the guts of the more easily-detectable adult predators, we were able to establish the importance of these otherwise hidden links for the overall structure of the food web."
A five-year project
The current work is the culmination of a five-year exploration of insect food webs of Zackenberg by Tomas Roslin and Gergely Vrkonyi.
"Why we wanted to work in the High Arctic was to keep things simple" says Tomas. "If you want to keep track of who interacts with whom, you should realize that things very quickly get out of hands with increasing diversity. With only a handful of species to keep track of, you can finally be confident that you really detect what goes on and what does not."
"And to be honest, we should not forget the beauty of the landscape and the excitement of working in one of the largest uninhabited regions on Earth", adds Gergely. "We have had polar bears tackling our traps and musk oxen chasing us. Such encounters tend to keep you alert."
The start of something new
"Most exciting of all are the vistas opened by our findings", says Helena. "What
|Contact: Tomas Roslin|
University of Helsinki