Two new papers on insect ecology from the Lyman group appeared this week: one in print, and one new paper in press.
Amélie Grégoire Taillefer’s new paper in Restoration Ecology (see Grégoire Taillefer & Wheeler 2013 in Publications) is a follow-up study to her M.Sc. field work on community assembly of flies in restored peatlands. Amélie’s earlier work showed that fly diversity is high in restored bogs that had been previously mined for horticultural peat moss. These bogs are actively seeded with plant material, but not with animals. So the question was: Are insects reintroduced with this plant material? As it turns out, the answer is “not really”. We found low insect diversity and abundance in vegetation prepared for reintroduction to bogs, which means that most of the insects have to disperse in from somewhere else after restoration. But if there isn’t a suitable natural bog nearby, that could be a problem for peatland recovery.
Postdoc Laura Timms’ paper in Ecography (just published on-line in early view, see Timms et al. 2013 in Publications) looks at 50 years of community change in parasitoid ichneumonid wasps on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut (one of the most northern places on earth). Laura compared specimens from our 2010 Northern Biodiversity Program collections at Lake Hazen, to three historical collections from the 1960s through the 1980s to assess changes in the community over time in response to a warming climate. The responses were not clear-cut. Although there weren’t major changes in the overall structure of the community, the ichneumonids that parasitize herbivorous host insects were less abundant in the 2010 samples, including some genera that were were completely absent. This means that some species, even within the same ecological or taxonomic group, may respond differently to climate change than others.
Neither of these papers is the last word from us on insect lives in these challenging habitats. Look for more papers from several members of the NBP group on the ecology, genetics and taxonomy of northern arthropods this year. And Amélie will continue to explore the community ecology of peatland flies in her Ph.D. work.