Insects are more threatened by climate change than previously thought
June 01, 2020
The conclusions from a study by the University of Oviedo and the University of Uppsala represent a new approach to the impact that global warming may have on insect populations, and therefore on the ecological networks of which they are a part and the ecosystem services they provide
A research project by the University of Oviedo and the University of Uppsala (Sweden) has shown that insects will be more threatened by climate change than previously thought. After reanalysing already published data, considered to be classic, on temperature and insect survival, the research team found new and more worrying patterns. The conclusion drawn from the study, published in Scientific Reports journal, represents a major change when considering insects' vulnerability in the face of global warming, and the impact this may have on their populations - and therefore on the ecological networks of which they are a part - as well as on the ecosystem services that these species provide us..
Previous studies had concluded that insects in the tropics would be highly threatened by climate change, as they currently live very close to their optimal and critical temperature, but that insects in temperate zones - being far from such temperatures - might even benefit from climate change. The problem is that, for all these calculations, classical studies considered average annual temperatures, without taking into account that the vast majority of insects remain inactive when it is cold - that is, for a significant part of the year.
When different species' biology is looked at in more detail, with only the months in which different species are active being considered in the models (as has been done in this new study), the optimal and critical temperatures for insect biology are much closer to, or exceed, those predicted by climate change models, and demonstrate their vulnerability. "Insects in temperate zones would be as threatened by climate change as those in tropical areas", says Germán Orizaola, professor at the University of Oviedo and author of the study along with Swedish researchers Frank Johansson and Viktor Nilsson-Örtman.
"Temperate insects with narrow seasonal activity periods can be as vulnerable to climate change as tropical insect species"
Johansson, Orizaola & Nilsson-Örtman
Scientific Reports, 2020