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Predicted effect of climate change on the invasibility and distribution of the Western corn root‐worm

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Insect pests, biological invasions and climate change are considered to represent major threats to biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, agriculture and forestry. Deriving hypothesis of contemporary and/or future potential distributions of insect pests and invasive species is becoming an important tool for predicting the spatial structure of potential threats.

The western corn rootworm (WCR) Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte is a pest of maize in North America that has invaded Europe in recent years, resulting in economic costs in terms of maize yields in both continents. The present study aimed to estimate the dynamics of potential areas of invasion by the WCR under a climate change scenario in the Northern Hemisphere. The areas at risk under this scenario were assessed by comparing, using complementary approaches, the spatial projections of current and future areas of climatic favourability of the WCR. Spatial hypothesis were generated with respect to the presence records in the native range of the WCR and physiological thresholds from previous empirical studies.

We used a previously developed protocol specifically designed to estimate the climatic favourability of the WCR. We selected the most biologically relevant climatic predictors and then used multidimensional envelope (MDE) and Mahalanobis distances (MD) approaches to derive potential distributions for current and future climatic conditions.

The results obtained showed a northward advancement of the upper physiological limit as a result of climate change, which might increase the strength of outbreaks at higher latitudes. In addition, both MDE and MD outputs predict the stability of climatic favourability for the WCR in the core of the already invaded area in Europe, which suggests that this zone would continue to experience damage from this pest in Europe.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-9563.2011.00532.x

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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