Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Midges send undeniable message -- planet is warming

13.12.2006
Small insects that inhabit some of the most remote parts of the United States are sending a strong message about climate change. New research suggests that changes in midge communities in some of these areas provide additional evidence that the globe is indeed getting warmer.

Researchers created a history of changing midge communities for six remote mountain lakes in the western United States. Midges, which resemble mosquitoes but usually don't bite, can live nearly anywhere in the world where there is fresh water.

The insect remains revealed a dramatic shift in the types of midges inhabiting these lakes in the last three decades, said David Porinchu, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of geography at Ohio State University.

“Climate change has had an overriding influence on the composition of the midge communities within these lakes,” he said. “The data suggest that the rate of warming seen in the last two decades is greater than any other time in the previous century.”

The data suggest that, starting around 25 years ago, warmer-water midges began to edge out cooler-water midge species around these remote lakes.

“People would like to believe that these mountainous environments may be immune to climate change, but these are some of the first areas to feel the impact of warmer temperatures,” Porinchu said.

He and his colleagues presented their findings December 15 in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The researchers gathered sediment from six small lakes in the Great Basin of the western United States – a vast watershed bounded roughly by the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain ranges. Since the lakes are accessible only by foot trail, the researchers carried in an inflatable raft during the summer months in order to collect sediment samples from the middle of the lakes. The lakes range from 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) to 34.5 feet (10.5 meters) deep.

The scientists collected sediment in cylindrical plastic tubes, gathering several samples from each lake. They didn't need much sediment – just four inches (10 cm) of lake-bottom residue can represent nearly 100 years' worth of sedimentation, Porinchu said.

“The amount of sediment that trickles out of the water column to the bottom of these lakes every year is so low because these lakes are at such high elevations – few, if any, trees grow at these elevations,” he said. “There just isn't much material entering the lakes.”

Once they were back in the laboratory, the researchers sliced the sediment cores into thin slivers about 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) thick. Each sliver represents a five or 10-year span, Porinchu said. They calculated the age of single sediment layers by using lead-210, an isotope of lead that decays at a constant rate and, therefore, can serve as a chronological aid.

Using a microscope, the researchers then searched the sediment for larval remains of the midges. Specifically, they were looking for larval head capsules, which are made of a hard, semi-transparent material called chitin. These head capsules become embedded in sediment once they are shed. Chitin, also a component of insect exoskeletons and the shells of crustaceans, doesn't readily degrade in the sediment of these lakes.

The researchers determined the type of midges that lived in the lakes based on specific variations in certain head capsule structures, such as differences in the number, size, shape and orientation of teeth.

“In the upper layers of most of the sediment samples – those representing the last 25 to 30 years – we see head capsules from midges that normally thrive in slightly warmer water temperatures,” Porinchu said. “And the cooler-water midges have nearly, or completely, disappeared.”

Surface water temperatures in these lakes have risen anywhere from 0.5 to 1 degree since the 1980s.

“Although that doesn't seem to be a huge increase, just a slight fluctuation in water temperatures can significantly affect the rate of egg and larval development,” Porinchu said.

And the majority of midge species living in these six lakes in the last 30 years thrive in temperatures ranging from 58.8 to 60 degrees F (14.9 to 15.6C), while cooler-water midges prefer temperatures in the 57 to 58.1F (13.9 to 14.5C) range.

“Above-average surface water temperatures typified the late 20th century in all of the lakes that we studied,” Porinchu said. “It's clearly an indication that something is happening that is already affecting aquatic ecosystems in these fragile, high-elevation lakes.”

Porinchu conducted the study with researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario; and Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt.

David Porinchu | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>