“Well,” Betty Buggobbler hesitated and then replied, “it’s nothing.”
Cecilia and Betty chatted about old times as they flitted from branch to branch. Eventually they settled in the fronds of a coconut palm. “I declare,” seed-munching Cecilia said stifling a burp, “I couldn’t eat another bite!” But Betty hungrily continued to scan for some flying or crawling morsel as they spied a couple of humans making their way through the undergrowth.
Ray Searcher was explaining the survey his team had recently concluded here in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque national rain forest reserve. Juan T’Know, a sixth generation Puerto Rican, listened intently.
Ray related how his team had been in this same area in 1977 surveying the quantity and variety of invertebrates living there including the insects, spiders and centipedes. They had also inventoried the number of insectivores (insect eaters) - the birds, frogs and lizards. Now, 40 years later, they returned and conducted the same type of survey in the same place.
The results were shocking! They found only 1/4th as many creatures creeping through the vegetation as compared to 40 years earlier. And the loss of ground crawling creatures was far greater still. In area after area where they’d previously found several thousands, they now found only a few hundred critters.
“No wonder you’re so thin,” Cecilia cried. “Poor thing! There’s nothing here for you to eat!” They continued to listen as Ray explained that temperatures in the tropics stick to a relatively narrow band, but over those 40 years the average high temperature had increased by 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The invertebrate critters that live there, likewise, have adapted to this narrow band of temperatures and don’t do well outside them. Bugs can’t regulate their internal heat.
“Besides pollinating our food supplies, these little guys form the very base of our food web. When they decline, so do all of the creatures who rely on them,” Ray continued as he looked up pointing to Betty, “including buggobblers like that one.”
As Betty flew off looking for a bit more lunch, she hoped that Ray and Juan would find a way to restore this jungle to the vibrant home she had grown up in. Because where else would she fly? She’s here forever…Earthbound.