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article imageGlobal warming and the spread of crop pests

By Tim Sandle     Sep 3, 2013 in Environment
Global warming appears to be triggering the spread of crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 kilometres a year, new research suggests.
Scientists have found a strong relationship between increased global temperatures over the past 50 years and expansion in the range of crop pests. Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, and worms, and combined they result in losses of around 10 per cent of the world’s crops.
The spread of pests is caused by a mix human activities and natural processes. However, is thought that the main reason is international freight transportation. The study suggests that the freight is taking pests to new places in the world and the warming climate is allowing the pests to become established in regions that were previously unsuitable.
Examples cited in the report include the Mountain pine beetle, which has spread further across the U.S. Pacific Northwest and has destroyed areas of pine forest. A second example is the rice blast fungus which has moved on from China to infect wheat in Brazil.
The study used observations of the distribution of 612 different crop pests collected over the past 50 years. The findings showed that the movement of pests both north and south towards the poles, and into new previously uncolonized regions. These movements corresponded to increased temperatures during that period.
The study was undertaken at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford and the research has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The paper is titled “Crop pests and pathogens move polewards in a warming world.”
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