Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dwindling Wind May Tip Predator-Prey Balance

22.09.2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air — and the soybeans — were still?

Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns may get the lion’s share of our climate change attention, but predators may want to give some thought to wind, according to a University of Wisconsin Madison zoologist’s study, which is among the first to demonstrate the way “global stilling” may alter predator-prey relationships.


Brandon Barton

An asian lady beetle rests on a plant in a soybean field in this time-exposure image. New research suggests that diminishing wind speeds caused by climate change affect the ability of such insects to capture prey.

“There are all sorts of other things that are changing in the environment that affect animals and plants and their interactions,” says Brandon Barton, a UW–Madison postdoctoral researcher. “My students and I were standing out in a cornfield one day as big gusts of wind came by, and the corn stalks were bending almost double. From the perspective of an animal living in the corn, we thought, ‘That’s got to have a big effect.’”

Wind speeds in the Midwest are expected to decline as much as 15 percent during the 21st century. Earth’s poles are warming faster than the equator, robbing the atmosphere of some of the temperature differential that creates wind. And the trend across the American landscape is to put up barriers to the wind in the form of buildings and more natural structures.

“In North America, we’ve been replanting trees that were lost in the 1800s, after settlers showed up and just leveled places like New England,” Barton says.

That’s good news for hungry lady beetles, according to research Barton published in the September issue of the journal Ecology.

Lady beetles eat a major soybean pest, the soybean aphid. Barton grew plots of soybeans in alfalfa fields, protecting some with wind blocks and leaving others in the open.

He found two-thirds more lady beetles in the plots hidden from the wind, and twice as many soybean aphids on the plants growing in the open.

Wind has no direct effect on the aphids, tiny insects that hug the plants and anchor themselves while feeding with a needle-like mouthpart called a stylet.

“The aphids appear on the plants whether it’s windy or not, and we showed that in lab experiments,” Barton says. “But when you add the predators, with the wind block, the beetles eat something like twice as many aphids.”

In his lab trials — simulating wind with fans and windless movement with a machine that tugged on tethered plants to shake and bend them — a stilled soybean plant represented a smorgasbord for the lady beetle.

“How do you do your duty as a predator if you’re entire world is moving around?” says Barton, whose work is funded by the National Science Foundation. “If the plant is moving, it takes four times as long for the predator to start eating, and it eats less than half as many aphids in an hour.”

Slower natural wind speeds could reduce the amount of pesticide required to keep soybean aphids from wrecking harvests. And the wind research may present other opportunities for pest control.

“By growing trees or not harvesting them around a field, you may be able to have an indirect effect on the number of aphids on your soybean plants,” says Barton, who wonders what other close animal relationships may be disrupted by shifting winds.

“The mechanism may be different for other predators, but it’s not hard to start thinking about effects,” he says. “Think of a wolf or coyote. Larger predators hunting by scent — and the prey trying to detect their predators — may be affected by less wind moving scents around.”

Contact Information

Brandon Barton, 608-262-9226, btbarton@wisc.edu

Brandon Barton | newswise

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>