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About The Eretmoptera Murphyi 

Context:

According to a study by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), a tiny flightless Midge (small insect) called Eretmoptera murphyi is changing the soil composition of Antarctica’s Signy Island. It is an invasive species on Antarctic Signy Island.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Eretmoptera murphyi
  2. Concerns

About Eretmoptera murphyi

  • Eretmoptera murphyi, also known as the midge or non-biting midge, is a species native to South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic Island.
  • It was accidentally introduced to Signy Island in the 1960s during a botany experiment and its population growth became evident in the 1980s.
Characteristics and Impact:
  • Eretmoptera murphyi primarily feeds on dead organic matter, leading to accelerated plant decomposition.
  • This process increases soil nitrate levels in affected areas by three to five times compared to locations without the presence of the midge and only native invertebrate species.
  • High nitrate levels can be toxic to other plant species and contaminate groundwater.
  • Elevated nitrate levels in water can promote excessive algae growth, deplete oxygen levels, and harm aquatic life.

Cause of Spread:

Experts suggest that human activities, such as carrying insects on shoes, may have facilitated the spread of Eretmoptera murphyi to Antarctica.

Concerns:

  • The midge’s ability to survive in water raises concerns about its potential spread to other islands.
  • The species has expanded its territory and population, posing significant challenges.
  • The invasion of the midge in Antarctica highlights the vulnerability of the unique ecosystem to invasive species, even in harsh conditions.
  • The activity of the midges, combined with the effects of climate change, may create favorable conditions for other invasive species to establish themselves and further amplify the impacts of climate change.

-Source: Down To Earth


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