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Crop-damaging pests spreading due to climate change; faster than their predators

Pests that eat and damage crops are spreading both further north and south due to climate change, according to a new study.

Researchers in Britain say that beetles, bacteria, funghi, worms, moths and other pests are moving at a rate of 16 miles per decade - that's faster than theoretical predictions in 2011 that found similar results.

Both global warming and human transport are helping them spread, say scientists.

The study looked at over 600 pests around the world and found that they were moving closer and closer to the poles of the Earth each decade.

The rate of the shift was not equal in each pest. Whereas funghi, beetles, true bugs, mites, butterflies and moths were moving higher, nematode worms and viruses were moving to lower latitudes.

"We believe the spread is driven to a large degree by global warming," lead author Daniel Bebber of Exeter University told Reuters.

"However, interactions between climate change, crops and pests are complex, and the extent to which crop pests and pathogens have altered their latitudinal ranges in response to global warming is largely unknown." 

They say the movement is a threat to global food security as on average between 10 and 16 percent of crops are lost to these pests.

The pests are moving faster than their predators, putting delicate ecosystems at risk.

Scientific American said that there is very little analysis of pest movements around the globe, making this study somewhat novel.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change.