Below is an excerpt from an article by Mark Brazil about the effects of global warming on insects and other animals.

“Climate change is not merely about a warming Earth. It is like a hinge, swinging open a door to environmental issues, water issues, agricultural and forestry issues, and even to public health issues. Plants and insects are two enormous groups of organisms dependent on ambient temperatures. Unlike endothermic mammals, insects are ectothermic; their strategies in response to winter are either to flee (migration) or to hide (hibernation).

Insects tolerate freezing as cold-hardy adults or (as a species) by laying eggs that can survive winter beneath the soil or hidden in tree-bark crevices where, through “supercooling” the small amounts of water in their bodies can cool to as low as -38.1 degrees C without freezing. Others have evolved highly effective biochemistry using cryo-protectants to prevent ice formation in their cells.

Whatever their winter survival strategies, however, earlier endings of freezing weather gives insects a fantastic opportunity to become active and reproduce earlier. Consequently, many more insects are capable of becoming agricultural and forestry pests at great cost to those industries.

While fears of such insect depradations have focused on the likely spread of tropical diseases, such as malaria, into more temperate zones at great cost to health-care systems, more surprising have been outbreaks of unexpected viral infections in cold places, even during winter.

…resident birds are commencing their breeding seasons earlier and earlier, allowing some the chance of a second and even a third brood each year. Long-distance migrant birds find the going tougher though; their spring arrival and breeding previously coincided with peak local insect populations, but these too have responded to these warmed-up jump-started years and so reach their population peaks earlier. Past synchronization, as a result, gives way to present chaos.”

Last year 2007 saw the spread of new foreign species of disease-carrier mosquitoes in Japan.

Source: Wild Watch Winters on the Wane. Snow season’s not what it was

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