Nav: Home

Arctic mosquitoes thriving under climate change, Dartmouth study finds

September 15, 2015

HANOVER, N.H. - Warming temperatures are causing Arctic mosquitoes to grow faster and emerge earlier, significantly boosting their population and threatening the caribou they feast on, a Dartmouth College study finds.

The study predicts the mosquitoes' probability of surviving and emerging as adults will increase by more than 50 percent if Arctic temperatures rise 2 °C. The findings are important because changes in the timing and intensity of their emergence affect their role as swarming pests of people and wildlife, as pollinators of tundra plants and as food for other species, including Arctic and migratory birds.

The researchers say the climate-population model they developed for Arctic mosquitoes and their predators can be generalized to any ecosystem where survival depends on sensitivities to changing temperatures.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. A PDF is available on request.

Climate change is raising temperatures globally, which greatly influences insect physiology, growth rates and survival, including their ability to elude predators. Average temperatures in the Arctic have increased at twice the global rate in the past 100 years, and the low biodiversity of Arctic ecosystems provided a simple predator-prey interaction for this study. Arctic mosquitoes develop in shallow temporary ponds of springtime snowmelt on the tundra, where their top predators are diving beetles.

Using field and lab studies, the researchers measured the impacts of increasing temperatures on development and death rates from predation on immature mosquitoes in western Greenland. They then developed a model to evaluate how temperature affects their survival from the immature stage to adult biting stage across a range of temperatures in future climate change scenarios for the Arctic.

The results show that warmer spring temperatures caused the mosquitos to emerge two weeks early and shortened their development time through the larval and pupal stages by about 10 percent for every 1 °C increase in temperature. Warming increased the number of mosquitoes being eaten by diving beetles, but the mosquitoes' accelerated growth in their vulnerable juvenile stages lessened their time with aquatic predators, which ultimately increased their chance of surviving to adulthood. With a 2 °C warming scenario, the researchers' model predicts the mosquitoes' probability of survival will increase by 53 percent.

Arctic mosquitoes' reproductive success depends on the females finding a blood meal, which is expected to increase because warming more closely synchronizes their life cycle with caribou calving. The calving season benefits mosquitoes by giving them a larger, less mobile herd to feed on, including vulnerable calves.

"Increased mosquito abundance, in addition to northward range expansions of additional pest species, will have negative consequences for the health and reproduction of caribou," says lead author Lauren Culler, a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth's Dickey Center's Institute of Arctic Studies. "Warming in the Arctic can thus challenge the sustainability of wild caribou and managed reindeer in Fennoscandia (Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of northwest Russia), which are an important subsistence resource for local communities."
-end-
Lead author Lauren Culler is available to comment at Lauren.E.Culler@dartmouth.edu. Co-authors are Matt Ayres, a professor of Biological Sciences, and Ross Virginia, a professor of Environmental Studies and director of the Institute of Arctic Studies. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Broadcast studios: Dartmouth has TV and radio studios available for interviews. For more information, visit: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~opa/radio-tv-studios/

Dartmouth College

Related Climate Change Articles:

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...