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 Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>