In the current issue of the British science journal Nature, a study on the ecosystem at Lake Mývatn, northeast Iceland, is featured as the cover story, which concludes that minor changes caused by humans in ecosystems can have dramatic impacts.
A team of ecologists from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iceland and Royal Holloway, University of London, investigated the changes of the size of the midge population around the lake, after which it is named and on which life in there is based, Morgunbladid reports.
The size of the midge population has fluctuated for the past four decades, bringing an end to char fishing in Mývatn. According to Dr. Árni Einarsson of the University of Iceland, who is also the manager of the local Nature Research Center, the fluctuations in the midge population were magnified shortly after silicon mining began in the lake in 1967.
The mining operations, which ended in 2004, made it more difficult for the midges, which feed on algae, to find food. Thus the char population, which feeds on midges, collapsed, Einarsson argued.
“The conclusion of the study has considerable importance in a larger context. It shows how a minor disruption of the environment can cause a domino effect in the ecosystem and thus have dramatic influence on our basis of life,” Einarsson said. “It is very possible that similar principles apply to the ecosystem of the ocean.”
The Mývatn study has received considerable attention in the UK; the online version of the Daily Telegraph reported on it yesterday.