On the barricades for Arctic insects

Climate change is no joke, and the Arctic is feeling it. We know this, and have to act accordingly. What we also know, is that Arctic biodiversity is going to take a big part of the blow. What we know a lot less about, however, is what’s going to happen to this Arctic biodiversity once this blow hits it full in the face.

That is one of the main reasons why we gathered in the cute Danish city of Aarhus this week, with specialists from all over the world working with Arctic insects (and other arthropods). Unified in the NeAT-network (Network for Arthropods of the Tundra), we aim to understand these tiny creatures and their relation with the changing climate.

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Aarhus city center on a rainy autumn day, still charming as ever

But there is still so much to learn! In many cases, we barely know where all of these species are, let alone how they are dealing with the tough conditions they are facing. Yet help is on the way, for example in the form of fantastic technology: NeAT-scientists are for example developing a formidable camera that can automatically photograph and identify hundreds of insects in a matter of minutes, where it traditionally costs specialists days to get the same job done.

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NeAT, an ambitious network aiming to save some of the worlds’ toughest arthropods

At least as interesting is the use of cameras that continuously monitor flowers or mushrooms for visitors, saving the researchers countless weeks in the field. Artifical intelligence then helps sieving through the pictures and extracting the ecological information from them.

The biggest step forward of all, however, would be the teamwork: scientists from Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, Alaska, Antarctica and so many other places joining forces to exchange ideas, optimize protocols and share data. Our own SoilTemp database will also benefit tremenduously from this group effort, when all of them start measuring the climate there where it matters for the arthropods: close to the surface and under the snow.

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Aarhus is not the Arctic, but a great city to meet and discuss science anyway

Now, back to work, there is a changing Arctic to be saved!

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