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How Climate Change Speeding Up, Is Creating Enemies In The Insect World!

Photography By Mic Theory


"The pace of global heating is forcing insect populations to move and adapt – and some aggressive species are thriving..." says author Oliver Milman in his latest article in The Guardian.


The climate crisis is set to profoundly alter the world around us. Humans will not be the only species to suffer from the calamity. Huge waves of die-offs will be triggered across the animal kingdom as coral reefs turn ghostly white and tropical rainforests collapse. For a period, some researchers suspected that insects may be less affected, or at least more adaptable, than mammals, birds and other groups of creatures. With their large, elastic populations and their defiance of previous mass extinction events, surely insects will do better than most in the teeth of the climate emergency?


At 3.2C of warming, which many scientists still fear the world will get close to by the end of this century, half of all insect species will lose more than half of their current habitable range. This is about double the proportion of vertebrates and higher even than for plants, which lack wings or legs to quickly relocate themselves. This huge contraction in livable space is being heaped on to the existing woes faced by insects from habitat loss and pesticide use. Some insects, such as dragonflies, are nimble enough to cope with the creeping change. Unfortunately, most are not. Butterflies and moths are also often quite mobile, but in different stages of their life cycle they rely on certain terrestrial conditions and particular plant foods, and so many are still vulnerable.


Pollinators such as bees and flies can generally move only short distances, exacerbating an emerging food security crisis where farmers will struggle to grow certain foods not just due to a lack of pollination but because, beyond an increase of 3C or so, vast swaths of land simply becomes unsuitable for many crops. The area available to grow abundant coffee and chocolate, for example, is expected to shrivel as tropical regions surge to temperatures unseen in human history. There is also evidence that increasing temperatures have led to some insects changes in body size, which could impact their long-term survival. Most of the world's insects live in the tropics. Indeed, tropical insects likely make up the most biodiverse animal group on the planet — and potentially the most abundant.


Due to climate change and global warming, pest populations are increasing, and people in and around Northern California (and around the globe) are seeing more bugs and pests during the summer months. Climatologists and entomologists alike warn that if no action is taken to better understand and reduce the action of climate change on insects, we will drastically reduce our ability to build a sustainable future based on healthy, functional ecosystems. Climate global warming is also causing new species evolve and even old species make a return!


"One day, about 60 million years ago, a little leafcutter moth landed on an ancient sycamore tree to lay eggs in its leaves. The larvae grew, nestled inside a comfy enclosure akin to a sleeping bag made between the leaf’s thin layers. Once hatched, they ate their way through to the surface and left to perpetuate their kin. Most of the chewed-up leaves swirled down to the earth, decomposing shortly after. But this leaf, along with a few lucky others, was destined for something else, an unimaginable feat verging on immortality. When it fell, this leaf either sank deep into mud or was swept away by a flooding river that buried it within the sediment layers. There, tucked away from oxygen and the bacteria that would’ve finished what the larvae did not, it survived for millennia, becoming fossilized. It lay there, tucked into the bedrock of obscurity, until one day scientist Lauren Azevedo-Schmidt, who was working on unearthing such relics, spotted it on a fossil bed in Southern Wyoming." (Lina Zeldovich Nautilus 2022)


They found from the fossil evidence that compared to the insects from the late Cretaceous period—about 67 million years ago—modern bugs are doing an unprecedented amount of damage to plants. The more recent leaves, handpicked from modern woods and in existing herbariums—the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland, Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, and Le Salva in Costa Rica—were more chewed up, pierced, and misshapen that those from eons ago.



Compared to prehistoric leaves, modern ones also tended to be mangled in more ways. They had a greater “damage frequency” as well—which meant that there were many more chewed up and misshapen leaves in the recent samples than in the ancient ones. This pattern intensified in the past century, hinting that the industrial revolution played a role...


“The difference in insect damage between the modern era and the fossilized record is striking,” Azevedo-Schmidt 2022


"...says Azevedo-Schmidt, now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maine. They also found that the damage levels have been rapidly increasing over the past century. Herbarium specimens from the early 2000s were 23 percent more likely to have insect damage than those from the early 1900s. Climate is creating super aggressive insects."


"Get Ready For A World Where You Can't Afford Coffee or Chocolate!" The Hemp Issue 2018




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