Beetle Decline with Climate Change

Undergraduate Wellesley College researcher Jennifer Harris.

Beetle abundance and diversity at Hubbard Brook have declined sharply since the 1970s, according to a new study published in Biological Conservation (831 KB PDF), led by Wellesley College undergraduate researcher, Jennifer Harris.

Harris and our bird research collaborators, Nick Rodenhouse and Dick Holmes, analyzed data collected—using the same methods and at the same locations—at Hubbard Brook between 1973–1977 and 2015–2017. They found that overall beetle numbers dropped by 83% during this period, while the number of identified beetle taxa fell by 39%. The authors attribute the losses to winter warming caused by climate change.

“Biologist E.O. Wilson wrote that it is ‘the little things that run the world,’ and we now have clear evidence that the abundance and variety of these little creatures, like beetles, have declined dramatically due to climate change,” said Rodenhouse. “The temperate forest ecosystems of northeastern North America are in a period of rapid transition—a tsunami of change—because climate affects every aspect of forest function.”