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Climatic warming disrupts recurrent Alpine insect outbreaks

Year of publication2010
Publication date2010-11-23
Author(s)Derek M. Johnson
Publisher(s)Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS
Place of publicationWashington
Magazine No.107
Publication typeJournal article
Climate change has been identified as a causal factor for diverse ecological changes worldwide. Warming trends over the last couple of decades have coincided with the collapse of long-term population cycles in a broad range of taxa, although causal mechanisms are not well-understood. Larch budmoth (LBM) population dynamics across the European Alps, a classic example of regular outbreaks, inexplicably changed sometime during the 1980s after 1,200 y of nearly uninterrupted periodic outbreak cycles. Herein, analysis of perhaps the most extensive spatiotemporal dataset of population dynamics and reconstructed Alpine- wide LBM defoliation records reveals elevational shifts in LBM outbreak epicenters that coincide with temperature fluctuations over two centuries. A population model supports the hypothesis that temperature-mediated shifting of the optimal elevation for LBM population growth is the mechanism for elevational epicenter changes.