It’s no secret that climate change is one of the biggest problems facing humanity today. Besides increased tropical storms and significantly higher water levels, climate change is also causing vital local species to lose territory.
Invasive species enter a habitat that they are not acclimated to. These species usually throw off the careful equilibrium achieved by the habitat. This has adverse effects on all the organisms that rely on it. A paper published in 2020 suggests that climate change can (and already is) exacerbating the problem of invasive species.
Invasive Species in Fiji
The paper studied three species of bees in Fiji: Homalictus fijiensis (the local species), Braunsapis puangensis (an invasive species from India), and Ceratina dentipes (another invasive species, from Indonesia). The local species, Homalictus fijiensis, is having trouble finding the same amounts of resources that it was prior to the (accidental) introduction of the two invasive species. This is leading to decreased populations, which is harmful to the local environment as a whole. Ecosystems are fragile, and removing even the tiniest species from one can have devastating consequences. Ceratina dentipes also has the ability to pollinate invasive weed species, which further threatens the local species.
The most concerning statistic the researchers recorded is the bees’ latitudinal ranges. This measures how many degrees of latitude a species is estimated to be able to habituate (based on temperature). Species with a larger latitudinal range are able to live in a broader range of temperatures than one with a smaller range. In the bees’ case, the latitudinal range of Homalictus fijiensis is only 4°, while Braunsapis puangensis and Ceratina dentipes’ latitudinal ranges are 49° and 43°. This does not bode well for the local species, especially with the Earth’s temperature on the rise with no signs of stopping. Humans will also have to worry about the fragile ecosystems that provide us with sustenance.
There is still hope, however. Another recently-published paper describes the formation of a subfield of ecology known as translational ecology. This field works to involve all in science, including decision-makers. As mentioned in the paper,
“Translational ecology approaches… depend on building trusted, committed, iterative, and two-way relationships between scientists and natural resource managers/decision-makers from the very beginning of the research program”.
As the field of translational ecology is further developed, more decision-makers will be informed of their impact on the local environment.
The next time you stroll through your local park, take a second to appreciate the unique wildlife you see. They play a bigger role in your life than you think. They protect local habitats and are vital to the functioning of your favorite local wildlife spot. Local species are the key to the beauty you see around you.