The Pisaurina mira spider was able to adapt to higher temperatures
- Promises be damned: TPP 'benefits' are strictly for the corporations
- Turkey's war on Kurdish cities - clearing the way for 'urban regeneration'?
- Brussels biotech lobby's last push for 'GM 2.0' technologies to escape regulation
- Pandora's box: how GM mosquitos could have caused Brazil's microcephaly disaster
Study of spiders shows species may be able to adapt to global warming
10th March, 2011
Species may be able to adapt to gradual increases in temperature preventing the collapse of biological communities in the face of global climate change
The predatory behaviour of spiders is unaffected by increased temperatures, according to research by Yale University, suggesting some species can adapt to global warming.
The Yale research examined a well-studied grassland food web, made up of a predatory spider, its grasshopper prey, and the plants grasshoppers fed on. The spider’s predatory behaviour is known to be temperature-sensitive, decreasing with increased temperatures. Researchers had expected higher temperatures to stop the spiders preying on grasshoppers, leading to more plants being eaten.
However, in the study, spider populations from warmer areas tolerated higher temperature ranges better than the populations from cooler areas and continued to control the grasshopper popualtion. This suggests they can adapt to local conditions and maintain their vital role in the community despite increased temperatures.
‘Species are almost certainly adapting to the climate change Earth has experienced during the past century,' study author Dr Brandon Barton told the Ecologist. 'My results show that species have the capacity to adapt to a range of temperatures, similar to those predicted by climate change models, and that a species’ role in the community can be conserved by this adaptation.’
Many similar experiments expose organisms to short-term, sudden increases in temperature, which does not allow for long-term gradual processes like climate change. Barton’s work overcomes these limitations by looking at populations along a natural temperature gradient to see if long-term changes in temperature would affect small-scale food webs. He sampled spiders at sites from a 500km, north-south axis, along the east coast of the United States, where temperature varied by 4.8C.
‘Ecologists must design experiments that explicitly test how gradual climate change will affect future systems, or else risk making unrealistic and misleading conclusions,’ Barton believes.
Dr Karsten Schönrogge, Principal Scientist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, believes further research is required to improve our understanding of how species may adapt to climate change.
‘Rapid adaptation of species not just to temperatures, but any of the factors indicated to change under climate change [e.g. drought regimes, etc.] or other environmental change could potentially stabilise communities. If they [species] can adapt, understanding how quickly and how far would give us a much better understanding to predict possible impacts of climate change at community level,' he said.
Despite species ability to adapt, Barton remains unconvinced this can eliminate the negative impacts of climate change. ‘Whether understated or exaggerated, all evidence suggests that the wide-reaching direct and indirect effects of climate change will have innumerable consequences on biological systems globally.’
Study: Local adaptation to temperature conserves top-down control in a grassland food web
Bees stung by 'climate change-linked' early pollination
Climate change may be causing flowers to open before bees emerge from hibernation leading to declines in pollination, new research suggests
Breeding habits of toads and frogs hit by climate change
Climate change may be affecting the normal breeding patterns of frogs, salamanders and other amphibians leading to fears of future population loss of some species
Species vs ecosystems: save the tiger or focus on the bigger issues?
Millions have been raised to protect tigers but does this help or hinder the efforts to prevent wider biodiversity loss by tackling habitat loss, climate change and pollution?
Climate adaptation is bringing sceptics in the US and UK onboard - but is it fast enough?
Some of the more conservative areas of the US like Florida are now adapting to climate change yet they are still unwilling to accept the necessity of reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Controversial pesticides linked to 'total ecological collapse' of insects and birds
Widespread use of insecticides affecting bee populations but also causing decline in numbers of birds, butterflies and moths, warns Dutch toxicologist
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.