Climate change poses one of the greatest challenges to our current and future societies, as well as to global ecosystems and the services they provide. Earthwatch supports climate change research that not only assesses impacts, but actively seeks to research how management interventions will counter the impacts of climate change on various landscapes and species. We also prioritise research that improves our understanding of the carbon cycle and how plants and soils around the world can function as carbon sinks. Our climate change research includes:
Climate Change and Caterpillars
Lead PI: Dr. Lee Dyer
Data collected by Earthwatch scientists and volunteers over the last 14 years have led to a novel and exciting concept for ecology, conservation biology and climate change biology: interaction diversity across environmental gradients. This concept emphasizes that it is important to consider relationships between organisms and how these are affected through conservation measures, or by climate change.
A new climate model developed by the EW team of scientists on the Climate Change and Caterpillars project has led to new climate change predictions, suggesting that interactions, such as parasitism, are likely to decline quickly with climate change, particularly relating to rainfall and temperature. For example, the natural ‘biological control’ of pests in banana plantations by rainforest parasitoids could be unbalanced, resulting in greater insect infestation and damage to crops.
The project also made a significant contribution to the understanding of natural history through collection of data on a new species of caterpillar that specializes on the invasive Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera
). Over the past few years, the Earthwatch scientists and volunteers have documented an increase in herbivore damage on tallow that is primarily due to herbivory on behalf of this newly discovered caterpillar.