The study suggests that erratic weather caused by climate change will worsen the spread of locusts.

A boy catches locusts on March 17, 2021 in Elburgon, Kenya. Strong winds and rain could lead to bigger and worse outbreaks of desert locusts, with human-caused climate change accelerating weather patterns and making outbreaks more dangerous, a new study has found. (AP Photo/Brian Anganga, File)

A new study suggests that strong winds and rain may trigger desert locust outbreaks, with human-caused climate change accelerating weather patterns and leading to greater risks of outbreaks.

The desert locust—a short-horned species found in some arid regions of northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia—is a migratory insect that travels long distances in its millions and causes crop damage. delivers, leading to famine and food insecurity. . There are 80 million locusts in a square kilometer swarm that can eat enough food crops to feed 35,000 people a day. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has described it as “the world’s most destructive migratory insect.”

The study, published in Advances in science On Wednesday, said the outbreak would be “difficult to contain and control” in warmer weather.

Study author and National University of Singapore assistant professor Zhaogang He said that more frequent and extreme weather events due to climate change could unexpectedly increase locust outbreaks.

But he hoped the study could help countries “understand and deal with the impacts of climate change on locust dynamics, particularly in the context of its impact on agricultural production and food security” and It called for better regional and continental cooperation between countries and control organizations to respond to this. Building early and early warning systems.

To assess the risk of locust outbreaks in Africa and the Middle East and the link to climate change, scientists analyzed desert locust outbreaks from 1985 to 2020 using the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Locust Hub data tool. What did They created and used a data-driven framework to examine patterns of insects to determine what might cause long-distance dispersal.

They found that 10 countries, including Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Yemen and Pakistan, experienced the majority of locust outbreaks among the 48 affected countries.

The worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years swept through East Africa in 2019 and 2020, when the pests destroyed millions of acres of farmland and damaged crops, trees and other vegetation, affecting food security and livelihoods.

Al-Fatih Abdul Rahman, a scientist at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, who was not part of the study, said that climate change could reduce food production and increase food consumption in areas affected by desert locust outbreaks. There will be considerable risk. Prices.

The researchers also found a strong correlation between the severity of desert locust outbreaks and weather and ground conditions such as air temperature, rainfall, soil moisture and wind. Desert locusts are more likely to infest arid areas with sudden heavy rains, and the number of insect outbreaks is strongly influenced by weather conditions.

El Niño, a recurring and natural climate phenomenon that affects the weather worldwide, was also strongly linked to larger and worse desert locust outbreaks.

Douglas Talami, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware who was not part of the study, said that weather disturbances and rains lead to an increase in vegetation and therefore a huge increase in grasshopper populations.

“As variability increases, it is logical to predict that locust outbreaks will also increase,” Talami said.

The study is “yet another example of what should be a very strong wake-up call that societies around the world need to come together to mitigate. and its implications but also to implement strategies in response to global events such as the increasing threat of the desert locust,” said Paula Shrewsbury, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. Shrewsbury was not involved in the research.

Research has found that particularly vulnerable places such as Morocco and Kenya are most at risk, but locust habitats have expanded since 1985 and are projected to shrink by at least 5 percent by the end of the 21st century. will continue to grow, presumably in western India and western central Asia. .

It cites the example of Rab al-Khali, or the Empty Quarter, a desert in the southern Arabian Peninsula, as a place that was historically uncommon for desert locust outbreaks but then became a hotspot. The desert experienced an outbreak of locusts in 2019 after uncontrolled breeding following storms, which flooded the desert with freshwater lakes.

Large locust outbreaks can have major financial impacts. The response cost more than $450 million According to the World Bank, from 2003 to 2005 occurred in West Africa. He said the outbreak has caused $2.5 billion in crop damage.

Countries affected by Xiaogang, the author of the study, said that climate-driven extremes such as droughts, floods and heat waves are already experienced before locust outbreaks, and a potential increase in locust threats in these regions could exacerbate existing challenges. .

“Failure to address these threats could further stress food production systems and increase their severity globally. “They said.

More information:
Xinyue Liu et al., unveiling the role of climate in locally synchronized locust outbreak risks, Advances in science (2024). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adj1164

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Reference: Erratic weather caused by climate change will worsen locust outbreaks, study finds (2024, February 16) Accessed February 18, 2024 at https://phys.org/news/2024-02-erratic Retrieved from -weather-fueled-climate-worsen.html

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