Climate change impacts every species on Earth, including some of the smallest insects that rely on just the right weather conditions to reproduce.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, climate change may be hindering the ability of reproduction for a number of insects, which means they’re not multiplying like they could be.
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The study focused primarily on that of fruit fly populations. It found that populations based in higher-latitude regions, such as that of Sweden, were more found to be more vulnerable to warming climate than those found at lower-latitude regions, such as that of Spain. This is probably due to the fact that insects at lower latitudes were already used to more sporadic weather, thanks to evolution. That said, mountainous regions have the most potential for noticeable impact to insect populations from climate change.
During lab testing, when the insects were exposed to a warmer temperature difference of 9.9º Fahrenheit more than they were accustomed to, it was enough to throw their reproductive cycle out of whack permanently.
While the study acknowledges that it’s long been known that climate change can impact insects, they add that their study shows climate change making an impact at far lower temperatures than ever before seen.
“We already knew that insects are feeling the effect of climate change but we now know they are felt at much lower temperatures,” said Dr Rhona Snook, a co-author of the study.
“Our study is unique as we only exposed the insects to mild heat but tested the long-term impact this had on them as both juveniles and when they reached adulthood. The results show that even small increases in temperature may still cause populations to decline because -- while these insects don't die because of the mild heat -- they produce fewer offspring.”
Moreover, although the study focuses primarily on fruit flies, it goes without saying that other insects are probably also effected, but more research would have to be conducted to confirm that for sure.
In the meantime, the goal of the scientists is to learn more of the genetics behind the two differing populations that are found at different latitudes in order to learn more about their differences and what makes certain populations more resistant than others.
“We are now interested in finding out what genes differ between Spanish and Swedish populations that allow the Spanish flies to cope better,” Snook added.
“Identifying genes that are linked to increased and decreased reproduction is something which may be very useful not only in understanding how insects will cope with climate change but from the perspective of controlling insect pests.”
While this could provide insight and answers to many questions, it could also help provide important answers to pest control products. On the other hand, as climate change is expected to continue to get worse in the future, this could spell trouble for the future of insects around the world.