“Carolinian Lights” & Invasive Species

The undulating waves in the sky rise and fall as we take a long walk around fish point and the winery. As I walk with my roommates and our two huskies, we first spot one thick wave above the lake, later another above the dock, then an extraordinarily long one above a tree line between the vineyards. The dark shapes of the islands in the lake match the colour of the ripples in the sky, the vibrant sunset colours highlighting the irregularities. Then, a light humming fills our ears and gets a higher pitch as we get closer to the swarm. We are experiencing the 42⁰ parallel’s version of the Northern Lights. The flies on this island are incredible. Although sometimes bothersome they are an important part of the incredible and biologically rich ecosystem on the island.

Insects are an essential food source for the many species of birds that come here. More birds result in more bird droppings and with it, a great variety of seed deposits.

This is one of the reasons that there is such great biomass diversity on Pelee Island. monarch-caterpillar A large diversity of plants allows for a large diversity of animals. For example, the Monarch caterpillar eats milkweed leaves exclusively and the Giant Swallowtail caterpillar on hop tree leaves.                                                                                                                   Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) - caterpillar1

phragmites_stand_summerIn fact, our entire ecosystem is a complicated web connected to each other. A change in one element can upset many others, and it can be all too easy to change nature.One dangerous way to change an ecosystem is through the introduction of invasive species. These are living things brought over from other parts of the world (exotic species) that prosper in the newly introduced landscape resulting in a drastic reduction in suitable environment for native species and thereby decreasing biodiversity. Although some species are introduced intentionally, such as phragmites, which were brought over from Asia as an ornamental plant, that is not always the case. Zebra mussles most likely arrived in the great lakes via an international tanker to which they had stuck, and the emerald ash borer larvae hide in firewood. Since it is so easy to introduce something to a habitat it is important that you pay careful attention.

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In conclusion, I would like for everyone to consider the habitat you are entering and think about what the likeliness is that you are going to be distributing a new pest. Invasive species are one of the main factors that decrease biodiversity. Why is a high level of biodiversity important? I think I will leave that for my next blog, so stayed tuned for that and more about flies!

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