Aeroecology pp 13-45 | Cite as

Atmospheric Environment Associated with Animal Flight

  • J. K. Westbrook
  • R. S. Eyster


The atmospheric environment can assist or restrict flight of animals (insects, birds, and bats), influencing their ability to extend their population range and find new habitats for food, mating, and shelter (Pedgley, Windborne pests and diseases: meteorology of airborne organisms. Ellis Horwood, 1982; Drake and Gatehouse, Insect migration: tracking resources through space and time. Cambridge University Press, 1995; Isard and Gage, Flow of life in the atmosphere: an airscape approach to understanding invasive organisms. Michigan State University Press, 2001; Drake and Reynolds, Radar entomology: observing insect flight and migration. CABI, 2012). Flight initiation may be influenced by air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure change, or other atmospheric variables and may require substantial convective lift for small invertebrates such as wingless insects and spiders. Flight displacement distance and direction largely depends on prevailing wind speed and wind direction at respective flight altitudes, although flying animals can add to their displacement speed and can alter their displacement direction by heading at an angle relative to the wind direction (Wolf et al., Southwestern Entomol Suppl 18:45–61, 1995), including upwind flight. While flying, animals may engage in predatory behaviors and conversely may be preyed upon. Long-distance flight of flying animals may be abruptly terminated by mid-latitude fronts, gust fronts, and precipitation. Ultimately, movement of animal populations in the atmosphere ranges across spatial and temporal scales spanning the microscale to macroscale and is vulnerable to changes in short-term weather and long-term climate patterns.



Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for the purposes of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA, Agricultural Research ServiceCollege StationUSA

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