Media Tip Sheet: Insect Declines

Featured presentations at the 105th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America

July 31, 2020
For Immediate Release

Contact: Heidi Swanson, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, gro.asenull@idieh

In recent years, headlines reporting catastrophic drops in insect life have periodically swept through the media landscape. The handful of scientific studies behind this coverage are concerning — but are they representative of all insects, worldwide? The presentations listed here discuss some of the latest research relating to insect conservation: trends, threats and known impacts. All will be presented at the Ecological Society of America’s upcoming virtual annual meeting, August 3–6, 2020, and will be available on-demand to registered attendees.


Virtual On-Demand Talks:


Big data in the sky: Historic NEXRAD radar data provides insight on long term patterns in insect abundance
Presenter: Elske K. Tielens, University of Oklahoma
One major barrier to understanding insect declines is data — specifically, a lack of it. Insects are diverse, difficult to identify, and their numbers often vary enormously over short timescales, making data that are accurate and sufficiently long-term a rarity. In this talk, Elske Tielens discusses the use of an unexpected resource — 8 years’ worth of radar data from weather stations across the U.S. — to estimate trends in biomass and abundance of airborne insects over space and time.

Toward a global theory of activity density: First results from NEON’s pitfall arrays
Presenter: Michael Kaspari, University of Oklahoma
The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), a network of sites deploying sensors and standardized data collection across the U.S., is helping to fill the data gap on insect abundances over time. At dozens of sites, pitfall traps that capture ground-dwelling insects have already been installed and are starting to generate data. In this talk, Michael Kaspari discusses some of the early findings, and what they say about changes in insect abundance and size over time.

Global patterns of ant diversity and congruence with other taxa
Presenter: Jamie M. Kass, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University
To conserve the most species, it pays to protect habitat with the highest diversity. Unlike vertebrates, whose global diversity is well characterized, maps of insect diversity tend to lump many taxa together, and are often very coarse in resolution, which makes pinpointing insect diversity hotspots a challenge. In this talk, Jamie Kass describes his work generating a detailed, high-resolution map of global ant biodiversity.

Net impact of shifting resource phenology
Presenter: Kelsey King, Washington State University
Climate change will shift where species occur; it will also change which species interact with one another. By altering the timing of life-cycle events, like the start of blooming or egg hatching (“phenological” events), climate change will break up some interactions and open the door to new ones, as organisms shift their life cycles to different times in the calendar year. In this talk, Kelsey King presents her research on the phenology of Boisduval’s blue butterfly and of the nearly 60 plants it currently uses or potentially will use in the future.

Body size-mediated responses to climate change in a desert bee assemblage
Presenter: Melanie R. Kazenel, University of New Mexico
In the Southwestern U.S., the climate is becoming drier and rain is becoming more variable. How the region’s insect life will respond to these changes is not known. In this talk, Melanie Kazenel explains how her work tracking both bee species’ abundances and their body size over 12 years points to the pressures that the new climate will exert on Southwestern bees.

Exploring the effects of hydropeaking in Flaming Gorge and Lees Ferry
Presenter: Christina A. Lupoli, Arizona State University
It is no secret that dam construction massively disrupts aquatic and riparian habitats, but the way in which working dams and reservoirs are managed also has huge consequences for local biodiversity. Hydropeaking, for example, is a practice in which the flow of water through hydropower dams is varied hour-to-hour (in order to match short-term changes in electricity demand); it can result in pulses of water that quickly raise and lower the river level, threatening downstream biota, like aquatic insects, that are adapted to a more constant flow rate. In this talk, Christina Lupoli compares the food webs downstream of two Southwestern dams with different hydrologies, to illustrate the knock-on effects that losses of aquatic insect life can have on local ecosystems.

Combined pesticide and resource stressors impair wild bee reproduction and behavior
Presenter: Clara Stuligross, University of California – Davis
Insects face a multitude of threats: pathogens, invasive species, pesticides and habitat loss, to name a few. Understanding how multiple stressors affect insects, and whether these effects differ in combination versus when measured singly, is critically important for conservation. In this talk, Clara Stuligross discusses her research on the combined effects of pesticides and poor nectar resources on blue orchard bees, which often face both of these challenges in agricultural landscapes.

Insects as indicators of management impacts on trophic and functional diversity: Ground beetle communities in restored tallgrass prairie
Presenter: Nicholas A. Barber, San Diego State University
Restoring degraded habitat is a complicated business. Land managers must consider the goals of their restoration: Is it to maximize the number of species present, maximize the amount of a particular ecosystem service provided, or return the ecosystem to some previous state? In this talk, Nicholas Barber describes the recovery of tallgrass prairie plots under various forms of management, and uses patterns of ground beetle diversity over time to illustrate how the plots’ ecological communities have responded to restoration efforts.

  • August 6, 9:30AM EDT: A live Q&A session will be held via Zoom for this and other presentations within the organized oral session Leveraging Monitoring Data to Improve Restoration Forecasts. The Zoom link will be made available on the main session page approximately 20 minutes before the question-and-answer session begins.



Understanding population trajectory through ups and downs: A case study of southwestern Michigan fireflies
Presenter: Julia Perrone, Kent State University
When it comes to conservation planning, imperfect data is better than no data at all – right? In this poster, Julia Perrone and her colleagues analyze a dozen years of data on firefly abundance in Michigan, and illustrate how using just a few years’ worth of data can paint a very inaccurate picture.

Reproductive success of an endangered plant as invasive bees supplant native pollinator services
Presenter: Alyson M. DeNittis, Utah Valley University
Dwarf bear-poppy is an extremely rare plant, existing only as six populations within a single county in Utah. Declines in its native bee pollinators and invasion by Africanized honey bees have led to fears that this species could be on the brink of extinction. In this poster, Alyson DeNittis and her colleagues explain how to check the quality of pollinating insects’ work, and reveal surprising effects that an invasive insect is having on this endangered plant.

Built by nature: Community and function in natural and structurally analogous urban systems
Presenter: Katherine McNamara Manning, Kent State University
“Green” infrastructure – rain gardens, urban forests, green roofs, and the like – is growing in popularity, and governments large and small are starting to incorporate it into urban planning. But do these installations attract and support ecosystems that are anything like what nature would build? In this poster, Katherine McNamara and her colleagues compare the insects found on green roofs in the Great Lakes region to insect communities living in similarly thin-soiled, natural settings.

Pollinators in North America: Diversity, spatiotemporal patterns, and knowledge gaps
Presenter: Sara Souther, Northern Arizona University
Conservation of any organism or group of organisms must start by answering one question: Where is it found? This is a major roadblock for insect conservation, because most insects are so under-studied, and rarely collected. In this poster, Sara Souther and her colleagues present a summary of known occurrence records of insect pollinators in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and discuss the major data gaps that this exercise reveals.

Improving stream restoration projects: How instream habitat influences recruitment and distribution of aquatic insect populations
Presenter: Catherine R. Bille, Bucknell University
Aquatic insects are a critical component of stream and riparian ecosystems – they feed fish, birds, and other vertebrates while keeping algae in check and breaking down and recycling organic matter in the water. Many aquatic insects also have complicated life cycles with very specific habitat needs. In this poster, Catherine Bille and her colleagues describe the impact of adding one simple habitat feature to restored streams on insect recruitment.


ESA Policy on Press Credentials
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is offering complimentary registration at the 105th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America for press and institutional public information officers (see credential policy). The meeting is 100% virtual and will feature live plenaries, panels and Q&A sessions from August 3—6, 2020. Other sessions will be available for viewing on demand (both during and after the meeting) with asynchronous Q&A. To apply for press registration, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Heidi Swanson at gro.asenull@idieh.

Virtual Press Room
Pre-registered press will be offered access to a virtual press room.

Press Room hours:
Monday, August 3 — Thursday, August 6: 10:00 am — 5:00 pm EDT



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