Mass seasonal bioflows of high-flying insect migrants

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Hu, Gao ; Lim, Ka S. ; Horvitz, Nir ; Clark, Suzanne J. ; Reynolds, Don R. ; Sapir, Nir ; Chapman, Jason W. (2016)

Migrating animals have an impact on ecosystems directly via influxes of predators, prey, and competitors and indirectly by vectoring nutrients, energy, and pathogens. Although linkages between vertebrate movements and ecosystem processes have been established, the effects of mass insect "bioflows" have not been described. We quantified biomass flux over the southern United Kingdom for high-flying (>150 meters) insects and show that ~3.5 trillion insects (3200 tons of biomass) migrate above the region annually. These flows are not randomly directed in insects larger than 10 milligrams, which exploit seasonally beneficial tailwinds. Large seasonal differences in the southward versus northward transfer of biomass occur in some years, although flows were balanced over the 10 year period. Our long-term study reveals a major transport process with implications for ecosystem services, processes, and biogeochemistry.
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