Are Mosquitoes Valuable to the Ecosystem?

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Mosquitoes are part of a viable ecosystem that has developed over at least 100 million years on earth. They are such an integral and integrated part of the planet's ecology that their absence would cause changes that could be detrimental to the creatures who depend on them. Although many a human has contemplated a world without mosquitoes at one time or another, the overall results of this dream-come-true may be surprising.

Population Control

The very reason humans hate mosquitoes so much is perhaps their most important role in nature. Mosquitoes are extremely effective vectors for disease thanks to their voracious feeding patterns and built-in hypodermic needles. Mosquitoes have been thinning animal populations for millions of years, and unfortunately, the human population more recently. Without mosquitoes, many diseases would slow or stop altogether and the animal population would increase accordingly. Overpopulation in nature often leads to starvation and death, all of which is staved off in part by the lowly mosquito.

Food Source

Mosquitoes are a reliable and necessary food source for creatures ranging from fish to birds. Many of these creatures, such as many species of fish and birds, evolved along with the mosquito and developed hunting techniques specifically designed to find and capture mosquitoes. If those mosquitoes are no longer there, these animals will be without a main source of nutrition, and their population numbers could fall as a result.

On the Road

Mosquitoes are a source of food for animals and birds on the move in otherwise inhospitable regions. When birds migrate from south to north for the summer season, they count on the huge numbers of mosquitoes that swarm in certain areas. For example, the Alaskan wilderness can be a barren place where food is hard to come by. Mosquitoes are one reliable fast-food option that migrating birds count on to fuel up and keep moving. Without them, the migratory process may not be possible and the numbers of birds who survive the journey could fall dramatically.

Environmental Filters

Mosquitoes are significant to the environment as a form of natural filter. Mosquito larvae grow in water and feed on detritus that floats and clogs the surface of the water, keeping the detritus from choking off nitrogen and oxygen necessary to the survival of plants below. Without mosquitoes to eat away the waste, the plants and the ecosystem they support could vanish as well since they cannot gain access to the nutrients they depend on for life.

Pollination

The male mosquito does not feed on blood. Instead, he survives on the sugars present in plant nectar. As a byproduct of his actions, he helps to pollinate those same plants. In subarctic climates such as northern Canada and Russia, mosquitoes play a major role in plant pollination. In other regions, the mosquito is outdone by bees and butterflies when it comes to pollination. While the results of a mosquito extinction may not be felt in all areas, it would take a toll in those subarctic regions where plants rely on them for pollination.

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    Author

    Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.