Eretmoptera murphyi: How the invasion of a tiny insect is altering Antarctica’s soil & its ecosystem

Source: The post is based on the article “How the invasion of a tiny insect is altering Antarctica’s soil & its ecosystem” published in Down To Earth on 16th May 2023

What is the News?

According to a study by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), a tiny flightless midge (small fly) “Eretmoptera murphyi” that has colonized Antarctica’s Signy Island is driving fundamental changes to the island’s soil ecosystem.

What is Eretmoptera murphyi?

Eretmoptera murphyi
Source: Down To Earth

Eretmoptera murphy is an invasive species on Antarctic Signy Island.

Native: It is a native of South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic Island, and was accidentally introduced to Signy in the 1960s during a botany experiment. Its proliferation became apparent in the 1980s.

Eretmoptera murphyi feasts on dead organic matter and has led to faster plant decomposition, thus increasing the soil nitrate levels by three-five times compared to places on the island where only native invertebrate species live.

Cause for the spread: Experts believe that the spread of this midge, murphyi in Antarctica may have been caused by humans who carried insects on their shoes.

Concerns: Eretmoptera murphyi can also survive in water, which raises concerns that it could spread to other islands.

It has become a big problem as the tiny insect has spread to a much larger area with multiplying populations.

The activity of the midges, along with climate change, may also create conditions for other invasive species to become established and accelerate the effects of climate change.

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