Managing coextinction of insects in a changing climate: Developing management strategies to combat increased coextinction rates of plant-dwelling insects through global climate change

Authors: Melinda Moir and Mei Chen Leng
Year: 2013

Plant-dwelling insects should generally be able to ‘keep up’ with migration to different altitudes by the host plant, provided the habitat is not overly fragmented. The question becomes whether the insect can tolerate the consequent environment differences. The insects most likely to survive climate change are those with both a wide host range and tolerance to a range of environmental conditions (changes in temp, humidity etc). This is because the plant-dwelling insect’s survival depends on factors determining the plant’s survival, as well as factors determining its own survival. This study identified 85 insect species (from a database of 1019 insect species) of immediate conservation concern due to their reliance on one or more threatened plant species. Insect groups that appear most prone to extinction are sessile feeders, highly host-specific groups, mobile plant louse groups, and internal plant-feeding insects. The two most influential environmental variables associated with insect survival at different altitudes were humidity and rainfall, although temperature was also important. All plant species studied, regardless of where they were situated, had insect assemblages that were influenced by humidity in some form. In addition to identifying the threats posed by climate change to plant dwelling insects, this study generated adaptation management options for their conservation. A lack of expertise and resources were identified as the most important factors inhibiting end users (land managers) from considering plant dwelling insects in management plans. With the assistance of end-users, an adaptation management framework was developed to assist with conserving plant-dwelling insect species, after they are identified as in need of conservation action.

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