Changes in the Great Plains as indicated by insect ecological responses

Ellen Welti, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Washington.

dunf beetle with ball of dung

The biota of the Great Plains of North America face numerous challenges. These include massive habitat conversion to row crop agriculture, loss of large native vertebrates, and altered biogeochemistry. The ramifications of changes in nutrient cycles include climate change, a result of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, and the redistribution of many of the elements essential for life such as nitrogen and sodium. These changes are particularly noticeable for animals with short life spans, such as insects, and ecosystems with high turnover of plant tissue, such as grasslands. We use insect community responses to examine the implications of ongoing changes in the Great Plains.

Speaker biography:
Ellen Welti is a Research Ecologist with the Smithsonian Institute’s Great Plain Science Program based in the shortgrass prairies of Montana, USA. She has a PhD in Biology from Kansas State University (2017) and had two postdoc positions at the University of Oklahoma and at Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Her work uses a combination of lab experiments, field experiments, and long-term observational data to examine the consequences of global change for grassland insects.

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