Linking Small-Scale Flight Manoeuvers and Density Profiles to the Vertical Movement of Insects in the Nocturnal Stable Boundary Layer.


Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, UK. [Email]


Huge numbers of insects migrate over considerable distances in the stably-stratified night-time atmosphere with great consequences for ecological processes, biodiversity, ecosystem services and pest management. We used a combination of meteorological radar and lidar instrumentation at a site in Oklahoma, USA, to take a new look at the general assistance migrants receive from both vertical and horizontal airstreams during their long-distance flights. Movement in the nocturnal boundary layer (NBL) presents very different challenges for migrants compared to those prevailing in the daytime convective boundary layer, but we found that Lagrangian stochastic modelling is effective at predicting flight manoeuvers in both cases. A key feature for insect transport in the NBL is the frequent formation of a thin layer of fast-moving air - the low-level jet. Modelling suggests that insects can react rapidly to counteract vertical air movements and this mechanism explains how migrants are retained in the jet for long periods (e.g. overnight, and perhaps for several hours early in the morning). This results in movements over much longer distances than are likely in convective conditions, and is particularly significant for the reintroduction of pests to northern regions where they are seasonally absent due to low winter temperatures.

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