Six new alpine species of New Zealand’s most unusual and beloved insect – wētā – have been discovered, but it’s a bittersweet victory, with another study describing the threat of global warming to their snow-capped mountains.
Wētā belong to the same group of insects as crickets and grasshoppers, and there are 70 to 100 species of wētā endemic to New Zealand. They are wingless and nocturnal, and some, including the vetopung, are some of the heaviest insects in the world – compared to the weight of a sparrow.
In the forests, meadows, caves and alpine areas once vetoed, but their populations have been affected by the introduction of foreign pests and declining habitats due to dairy farming. Sixteen species of wētā in New Zealand are endangered, and the rest are classified as endangered.
Now global warming is accelerating their decline, especially for elusive alpine vetoes living in the mountains – an area that is gradually disappearing and becoming increasingly isolated.
“We knew that there, at the height, there is wētā, but a description of their variations it was never done because, although we knew they were there, they didn’t get much observation, ”said Steve Trevik, an ecologist and expert at Messi University.
Alpine vetoes are mobile (one of them was nicknamed the Mount Cook flea, despite its much larger size) and have an impressive ability to freeze in the harsh winter months before thawing again in the spring.
But delight in the “fantastic” discovery comes a grim realization: “Now we know they’re there and we can sit back and watch them die,” Trevik said. “We are still discovering what we have, and at the same time, when we discover it, we know that biodiversity is under threat more than ever before,” he said, adding that alpine habitats are the first. place on the list for destruction.
The the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). found that now “almost inevitably” a rise in temperature above 1.5 degrees Celsius – a level above which many climate effects will be irreversible.
An article published in the Royal Society, which Trevik helped the author, see climate change and alpine insects, including cousin wētā, grasshopper. This shows that global warming poses a serious threat to the alpine environment, which will have devastating consequences for biodiversity.
“As the planet heats up, the alpine zone rises, so cold conditions become more and more relaxed for mountain tops, and mountain height is finite.”
As these alpine environments shrink, they isolate themselves from other similar terrain, creating small isolated animal populations that then become more endangered.
Although the study focuses on New Zealand’s biodiversity and topography, Trevik said it is more widely used, and demonstrated that “no part of the planet is free from global climate change.”
“All those taxa that are associated with these habitats will increasingly feel over the next 30-50 years – we say throughout human life.”