The impact of landscape fire smoke on insects

The impact of landscape fire smoke on insects

by Yanan Liu

Landscape fires are expected to increase in many regions because of rises in temperature and changes in precipitation from global climate change. Smoke emissions from landscape fires contain many harmful atmospheric pollutants and will have ecological impacts. In particular, as insects play essential roles in many ecosystems, they may be sensitive to smoke exposure.

To better understand the effects of landscape fire smoke (LFS) on ecosystems, in our study published in Environmental Entomology, we reviewed the scientific literature from 1930 to 2020 after systematic searching using Web of Science, Pub Med, and Google Scholar to collect evidence on the effects of smoke exposures from landscape fires on insects, identify specific impacts, and summarise the current state of development in this knowledge area (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Systematic mapping flow chart for searching the literature


We found 42 relevant studies that met our criteria with 40 specific insect species. Smoke pollution mainly impacts insect development (3 studies), behaviour (33 studies) and mortality (6 studies) with both positive and negative impacts. The positive impacts are reflected in LFS attracting insects while the negative impacts show that LFS restricts insect development and repels insects. Figure 2 mainly shows the classification of insect species studied concerning smoke from landscape fire activities in three aspects.

Figure 2. Insect species were studied concerning smoke from landscape fire activities within the published literature. P refers to Positive impacts and N refers to Negative impacts.

In addition, we also extracted the information on the study and species distribution and found that these researches broadly follow trends in global wildfire distribution, particularly for field-based studies. More details can be found in our published paper.

This review consolidates the current state of knowledge of smoke impacts on insects and highlights areas that need further development, particularly as impacts on insect communities will worsen due to changing patterns of biomass burning worldwide under the joint pressures of climate change and human activity.

Yanan Liu is a PhD student at King’s College London, investigating the potential impacts of smoke from landscape fires on migratory insects.