According to a recent study, one of the unexpected consequences of climate change in the Arctic are mosquito swarms that now can grow large enough to kill a baby caribou due to unusually high temperatures.
The recent findings show that mosquitoes can now reproduce and grow faster and may soon become a life threatening issue to the local caribou populations they feed on.
Dartmouth College researchers and study authors said that their climate model shows that in an extra 2 degree C scenario, mosquitoes in the Arctic would have a more than 50 percent higher chance of survival and emergence than they do today.
And, that may change how they affect caribou and human populations, and their role as pollinators and food stock for migratory birds. The research team explained that the changes revealed by their climate model would occur in any ecosystem with prey and predator populations that are influenced by rising temperatures.
As climate change continues to raise temperatures worldwide, we should expect insect populations in colder areas to boom because they will be able to reproduce faster and dodge predators better. Additionally, records show that the temperatures in the Arctic are increasing faster than they do in other regions of the planet. In the past 100 years these temperatures increased at a double pace than the rest of the world.
Usually, Arctic mosquitoes emerge in spring when warmer temperatures cause ice in the tundra to partially melt and form temporary ponds. Because the insects’ main predators are only diving beetles in the area, scientists were able to create an accurate and simple model of the prey-predator interaction in the ecosystem.
Scientists wanted to learn what changes rising temperatures may bring to mosquito-diving beetle interaction in the Arctic. The team was first interested in changes in the death rates and development of newly hatched mosquitoes in western Greenland. Next they applied the model on the Arctic region using different scenarios of temperature rise to assess survival rates of mosquitoes.
According to the model, Arctic mosquitoes would appear two weeks earlier if spring becomes warmer. Additionally, the insects would develop at a quicker pace reaching maturity from the larval stage 10 percent faster for every additional 1 degree C.
But warm temperatures would help diving beetle populations thrive too and eat more mosquitoes. On the other hand, because mosquitoes will develop faster that will not be a problem to the overall population.
With only an only 2 degree C rise in temperatures, the survival rate of mosquitoes jumped 53 percent, researchers noted. And, more mosquitoes mean that their females will need more blood and start attacking caribou calves which are more vulnerable, thus threatening local caribou populations.
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