UBC Undergraduate Research

Climate change, forest insects and the fossil record : knowing the past is the key to our future Hill, Lindsay


From enhancing nutrient cycling, promoting soil formation and controlling the population size of other organisms, insects have an important role in all forested ecosystems. Insects have had naturally occurring life cycles within forests for millennia. However, due to climate change these cycles are becoming interrupted. In order to fully understand how insects contribute to the health of forests, it is necessary to look at historical life patterns related to insects and climate change. By using the fossil record, we can learn about the natural occurrences of forest insects and how their life cycles vary with a changing climate. From studying the fossil record we have learned that: a change in climate can drive a change in forest composition, impacting insect behaviour; there is increased insect feeding with increased temperature; and insect diversity tracks plant diversity. This is significant because what we can learn from historical evidence can help inform management decisions by forest professionals in a time when climate change is creating patterns that humans have not observed before. Despite the limitations of using this method, the fossil record is overall a source of abundant and useful information that should not be ignored.

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