Navigation Links
Moth study suggests hidden climate change impacts
Date:4/14/2014

ANN ARBORA 32-year study of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that scientists may be underestimating the impacts of climate change on animals and plants because much of the harm is hidden from view.

The study analyzed populations of 80 moth species and found that 90 percent of them were either stable or increasing throughout the study period, from 1978 to 2009. During that time, average annual temperatures at the study site rose 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter precipitation increased as well.

"You see it getting warmer, you see it getting wetter and you see that the moth populations are either staying the same or going up. So you might think, 'Great. The moths like this warmer, wetter climate.' But that's not what's happening,'' said ecologist Mark Hunter of the University of Michigan.

Hunter used advanced statistical techniques to examine the roles of different ecological forces affecting the moth populations and found that warmer temperatures and increased precipitation reduced the rates of population growth.

"Every time the weather was particularly warm or particularly wet, it had a negative impact on the rates at which the populations grew," said Hunter, the Henry A. Gleason Collegiate Professor in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

"Yet, overall, most of these moth populations are either stable or increasing, so the only possibility is that something else other than climate changesome other factor that we did not measureis buffering the moths from substantial population reductions and masking the negative effects of climate change."

The findings have implications that reach beyond moths in Lapland.

If unknown ecological forces are helping to counteract the harmful effects of climate change on these moths, it's conceivable that a similar masking of impacts is happening elsewhere. If that's the case, then scientists are likely underestimating the harmful effects of climate change on animals and plants, Hunter said.

"We could be underestimating the number of species for which climate change has negative impacts because those effects are masked by other forces," he said.

Hunter and six Finnish colleagues report their findings in a paper scheduled for online publication April 15 in the journal Global Change Biology.

The study was conducted at the Vrri Strict Nature Reserve, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle and less than four miles from the Finnish-Russian border. The nearest major road is more than 60 miles away.

Between 1978 and 2009, Finnish scientists used light traps at night to catch 388,779 moths from 456 species. Eighty of the most abundant species were then analyzed.

Hunter used a statistical technique called time series analysis to examine how various ecological forces, including climate, affected per capita population growth.

Scientists want to know how climate change will impact insects because the six-legged creatures play key roles as agricultural pests, pollinators, food sources for vertebrates, vectors of human disease, and drivers of various ecosystem processes.

Researchers believe that butterflies and moths may be particularly susceptible to population fluctuations in response to climate changeespecially at high latitudes and high elevations.

Most recent studies of moth abundance have shown population declines. So Hunter and his colleagues were surprised to find that 90 percent of the moth species in the Lapland study were either stable or increasing.

On one level, the results can be viewed as a good news climate story: In the face of a rapid environmental change, these moths appear to be thriving, suggesting that they are more resilient than scientists had expected, Hunter said.

But the other side of that coin is that unknown ecological forces appear to be buffering the harmful effects of climate change and hiding those impacts from view. The results also demonstrate that "simple temporal changes in population abundance cannot always be used to estimate effects of climate change on the dynamics of organisms," the authors conclude.

"The big unknown is how long this buffering effect will last," Hunter said. "Will it keep going indefinitely, or will the negative effects of climate change eventually just override these buffers, causing the moth populations to collapse?"

Another big unknown: What ecological forces are currently buffering the Lapland moths from the negative effects of a warming climate?

Finnish team members who've been collecting moths at the Vrri reserve for decades say they have noticed a gradual increase in tree and shrub density, increased rates of tree growth, and a rise in the altitude of the tree line.

Trees provide food and shelter for moths, and leaf litter offers overwintering sites and resting areas away from predators. Perhaps the observed vegetation changes are helping to offset the negative effects of warmer temperatures and increased precipitation. That possibility was not analyzed in the current study.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jim Erickson
ericksn@umich.edu
734-647-1842
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. Law that regulates shark fishery is too liberal: UBC study
3. New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change
4. Study jointly led by UCSB researcher supports theory of extraterrestrial impact
5. BYU study: Using a gun in bear encounters doesnt make you safer
6. 15-year study: When it comes to creating wetlands, Mother Nature is in charge
7. Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) shown to improve menopause symptoms in new study
8. Crystal structure of archael chromatin clarified in new study
9. EU-funded study underlines importance of Congo Basin for global climate and biodiversity
10. University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible
11. Study demonstrates cells can acquire new functions through transcriptional regulatory network
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/16/2016)... 2016   IdentyTechSolutions America LLC , a ... solutions and a cutting-edge manufacturer of software and ... offering seamless, integrated solutions that comprise IDT biometric ... solutions provide IdentyTech,s customers with combined physical identification ... crime and theft. "We are proud ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... , Dec. 15, 2016   WaferGen Bio-systems, ... held genomics technology company, announced today that on December ... Qualifications Department of The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC which ... bid price of WaferGen,s common stock had been at ... WaferGen has regained compliance with Listing Rule 5550(a)(2) of ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... Dec. 14, 2016 "Increase in mobile transactions ... The mobile biometrics market is expected to grow from ... by 2022, at a CAGR of 29.3% between 2016 ... as the growing demand for smart devices, government initiatives, ... "Software component is expected to grow at a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/19/2017)... ... January 19, 2017 , ... November Research Group, LLC, a ... medical device manufacturers and regulators, is proud to announce the worldwide release of ... designed to provide product vigilance departments with the flexibility and ease of use ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... MAYNARD, Mass. , Jan. 19, 2017 ... company focused on enhancing productivity in aquaculture and a ... ), announces that it has completed the listing of ... finalized the equity subscription from Intrexon. "AquaBounty,s ... Company that will broaden our exposure to the U.S. ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... ... January 19, 2017 , ... FireflySci Inc. is a go-getter type of ... growth is accounted to two main factors. The first is the amazing customer ... vendors supplying FireflySci products all around the world. , 2016 was a tremendous sales ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... 2017  Northwest Biotherapeutics, Inc. (OTCQB: NWBO) ("NW Bio"), ... for operable and inoperable solid tumor cancers, announced today ... of NW Bio, will present at the Phacilitate Immunotherapy ... Hyatt Regency Hotel in Miami, Florida ... entitled "New Therapeutic Approaches – Expanding the Reach of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: