Increase in crop losses to insect pests in a warming climate

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Science  31 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6405, pp. 916-919
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3466

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  • RE: Inadequate assumptions undermine efforts to forecast climate change-induced crop losses to pests
    • Gregor Kalinkat, Department of Ecosystem Research, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Germany.
    • Other Contributors:
      • Tea Ammunét, Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
      • Madeleine Barton, Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
      • Andrea Battisti, Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and the Environment, University of Padova, Italy
      • Sanford D. Eigenbrode, Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho, United States of America
      • Jane U. Jepsen, 6Department of Arctic Ecology, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Norway
      • Philipp Lehmann, Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Sweden
      • Seppo Neuvonen, Kevo Subarctic Research Institute, Biodiversity Unit, University of Turku, Finland
      • Pekka Niemelä, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Finland
      • Bjørn Økland, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Norway
      • John S. Terblanche, Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology
      • Christer Björkman, 2Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

    Recently, Deutsch and colleagues(1) projected future increases in yield losses to insect pests of the three globally most important staple crops under different climate change scenarios. Their results are based on model simulations parameterized with thermal sensitivity analyses of population growth and metabolic rates from a geographically and functionally diverse set of insect species taken from an earlier study(2). A subset of the original data compilation was then used to estimate the direct impact of warming on insect fitness across latitudes(3). More precisely, the derived thermal-dependence of fitness for globally distributed terrestrial insect species was integrated with projected geographic distribution of climate change for the next century (3). These models were then deployed in the new study investigating potential yield losses in three specific crops(1). We submit that Deutsch and colleagues rely on inadequate empirical data for their model parameterization to estimate pest-related crop losses. Strikingly, their source data did not include major pest taxa of the focal staple crops and were not restricted to herbivores despite that temperature-dependence of metabolic and performance responses are known to vary substantially among trophic levels and functional groups(4,5). Hence, the inferences drawn by Deutsch and colleagues(1) may be unreliable. Mitigating potential climate change responses of pest organisms jeopardizing future food security can only be succes...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Crops and insect pests: a one-to-many relationship
    • Olivier Dangles, Ecologist, Montpellier University-IRD, Montpellier, France
    • Other Contributors:
      • Geoff Gurr, Ecologist, Charles Sturt University, Orange, Australia

    In their Report “Increase in crop losses to insect pests in a warming climate” (31 August, p. 916), Deutsch and coauthors show that ongoing climate change should accelerate reproductive and metabolic rates of insects and forecast higher yield losses for major crops. That study and the related Perspective (1) recognize that many factors (e.g., indirect plant-mediated effects, insect plasticity) may further complicate predictions. However, an important, yet overlooked assumption behind Deutsch et al.’s conclusions is that they view crop-insect interactions as a one-to-one relationships (one plant, one insect species) while most crops are invariably attacked by several insect species (one-to-many relationship). Herbivores sharing a host plant often have non-additive, interactive effects on plant performance (2) (either positive or negative) so that the total amount of crop consumed by multi-species infestations cannot be inferred from studies on each pest alone (3). The importance of herbivore interactions for crop loss predictions is emphasized in a warming climate as temperature modulates species interaction effects on crop pest consumption rates (4) and because global shifts in species distributions constantly redraw pest communities (5). While the issue of species interactions to predict biodiversity and ecosystem process responses to climate change has long been recognized by ecologists (6), it is less considered in crop research. This is particularly important in the tr...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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