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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>