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04 Sep

Pests Revel In Climate Change

The discoloured trees show damage done by pine beetles. The discoloured trees show damage done by pine beetles.


Radical climate change has at least one beneficiary that stands to gain from global warming. Agricultural pests are taking advantage of man's relentless impact on weather patterns to extend their ranges, colonizing new areas that are gradually warming. As of 1960, pests have gained new ground toward both the north and south poles at a rate of 26.6 kilometers per decade.

The new data was released to the online scientific journal Nature Climate Change as part of a study carried out by the University of Exeter and University of Oxford. The research included 612 crop pests and pathogens collected over the past 50 years.

While the physical spread of pests is mainly due to international freight transportation, the ability of pests to survive transport and pass on to thrive in new environments is primarily linked to climate change. Two pests covered by study are the Mountain pine beetle and Colorado potato beetle. Pine forests in Canada and the US have been devastated by the pine beetle due to insufficient winter temperatures necessary to keep the pest at bay. Northern Europe is under threat by the potato beetle for the very same reason.

“If crop pests continue to march polewards as the Earth warms, the combined effects of a growing world population and the increased loss of crops to pests will pose a serious threat to global food security,” said Dr. Dan Bebber, the study's co-author.

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