June 16, 2019

Report: Mosquitoes, poison ivy to grow with climate change

Report: Mosquitoes, poison ivy to grow with climate change

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August 22, 2014 12:00 AM

There’s bad news for nature lovers this week: The most annoying outdoor bugs and pests will only get peskier and more prevalent with climate change.

Tiger mosquitoes, poison ivy, deer ticks and fire ants will all be conquering new ground and expanding their range as temperatures rise with global warming, according to a report released this week from the National Wildlife Federation called “Ticked off: America’s outdoor experience and climate change.”

On SouthCoast the pest that is most concerning is the tiger mosquito, said Dr. Doug Inkley, who authored the report.

Tiger mosquitoes can carry 30 different types of diseases, including West Nile Virus, EEE and Dengue fever, among others. Unlike many species of mosquitoes which are mostly active at dusk and dawn, tiger mosquitoes are active all day long, posing a particular threat to humans.

Currently, tiger mosquitoes, an invasive species from Asia, are present in southeastern Pennsylvania and the “very coastal areas” of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

By 2020, that will change thanks to global warming, Inkley said. By 2020 tiger mosquitoes could be present in all of coastal Massachusetts as rising temperatures encourage them to come north.

“Basically this host species, which carries diseases, is going to be out there all day, greatly increasing the exposure risk to humans,” Inkley said.

Just because a warmer climate will be favorable to tiger mosquitoes does not mean it will be favorable for all 30 of the diseases they can carry.

Still, Inkley said there is a cause for concern.

Another pest that will impact SouthCoast is poison ivy. Like all plants, poison ivy thrives when there is more carbon dioxide, a symptom of global warming. Poison ivy can also thrive in a warmer environment, meaning the plant will become more prevalent.

Perhaps more concerning, however, is that the combination of added heat and carbon dioxide will also increase the toxicity of urushiol, the part of poison ivy that causes allergic reactions in humans.

“This report shows that there are significant pests that we do deal with now but that we will have to take more effort to deal with in the future,” Inkley said.

He said he did not want the report to discourage people from spending time outdoors, noting that “the outdoor experience is so important to children and their health.”

But, he said, unless public policy changes so that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere decreases significantly, people will have to be much more vigilant when they are outside.

“We already know how to protect ourselves by wearing long clothing, and we should continue to do that,” he said. “But we also need to cut our carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy.”

Follow Ariel Wittenberg on Twitter at @awittenberg_SCT

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Report: Mosquitoes, poison ivy to grow with climate change

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