Why Care About Mosquitoes?


Thanks to Kendra Pierre-Louis for this explanatory note, which references the article in taking us a step closer to understanding the mystery of mosquitoes’ value to the planet:

The little things that run the polar world

08cli-newsletter-mosquito-superJumbo.jpgAsk just about any human and they’ll tell you that mosquitoes are pests we’d be better off without, especially since some mosquitoes carry deadly diseases. Even many scientists agree: A 2010 article in the journal Nature concluded that a world without mosquitoes would be less itchy and less deadly for us, with few drawbacks for other species, outside of some ecological niches.

One of those niches is the Arctic, where mosquitoes play a bigger role in sustaining the ecosystem but may be threatened by the changing climate, said Lauren E. Culler, a research assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.

“You can collect pollen off of mosquitoes, indicating they may have a role in pollination,” she said. “And we know that they’re also food for other organisms in the food web.”

Just as the biologist Edward O. Wilson’s essay “The Little Things That Run the World” described the importance of insects and other invertebrates, Dr. Culler calls mosquitoes “the little things that run the polar world.”

She is now researching how changes in the Arctic, which is warming twice as fast than the global average, are affecting mosquitoes. “Losing mosquitoes from the Arctic ecosystem could have some unanticipated impacts,” she said.

We’re not close to losing them yet, but things are changing fast in the region. In her most recent study Dr. Culler looked at how successfully mosquitoes were reproducing in Greenland. In her earlier work she found that mosquitoes were emerging earlier in the spring and maturing faster courtesy of the Arctic’s warming temperatures. But it was unclear whether this earlier emergence was endangering their survival…

Read the whole story here.

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