Care for the ‘creepy-crawlies’

Posted by Keely Paler, @keely_paler

Climate change. It is something that almost everyone has heard of. There are 226,723 articles on Scopus using this key word and it is widely talked about by everyone from John Oliver to Alice Baranyovits. It is essentially the result of excess greenhouse gas emissions, which causes a range of changes including increased temperature, shrinking glaciers and altered nutrient stores. Whilst many of my friends think that these warmer temperatures will be awesome and that it’ll allow them to sunbathe more, not all species agree. It is likely that these changes will impact a wide range of environments and species.

sunbathing weevil copy

Not all species think that climate change will be awesome

Most climate-change attention tends to focus on big, charismatic species because they are easily noticeable and intrinsically interesting. For example, we would immediately notice an elephant in a room and wonder why it’s there, but we are a lot less likely to see or care about a ladybird. However, we should care about insects because they have many significant ecological roles, economic impacts, and interesting stories. And it is likely that climate change will impact these ‘creepy-crawlies’ because temperature plays a big role on their development, reproduction and survival. Unfortunately, climate change research rarely focuses on native invertebrates.

elephantWhat do you notice first? The elephant or the beetle? Does this mean that the elephant matters more?

This is where my master’s research comes in. We are trying to determine the impact of climate change on alpine beetle communities by manipulating temperature and nutrient levels around individual tussock grasses. We then used pitfall traps to collect the associated beetle communities. These traps are holes in the ground used to trap invertebrates. This allows us to see what sort of beetle species are in the surrounding area. So far, I have sorted over 12,000 beetle specimens into 137 different species and will shortly begin making comparisons between communities.The aim of this, is to determine whether these beetles communities are different if they are subjected to two components of climate change.

pitfall trap drawing          pitfall

Beetles are not the smartest creatures, and will fall into these pitfall traps, without realising that they are there. This allows us to passively sample invertebrates.

Whilst sorting through these beetles may sound like the most boring thing ever, I have started noticing all these cool creatures that I probably would’ve otherwise ignored. I guess that I have begun to like these creepy-crawlies and really think that they should be protected from Climate change.

Cool stuffSome of the cool things which I have discovered in the pitfall traps

Keely Paler is an MSc student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is supervised by Darren Ward, Rich Leschen and Adrian Monks (Landcare Research) examining climate change and alpine insects.

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