Jane Qiu reports in Nature News
Ancient records link a hotter climate to more damaging infestations.
Analysis of Chinese historical records stretching back for over a thousand years show that locust outbreaks are more likely to occur in warmer and drier weather, especially in the country’s northern provinces, researchers say.
Warmer weather in China has been linked to worse locust outbreaks.
“The results are an alarm bell for yet another serious consequence of climate change,” says Ge Quansheng, deputy director of the Beijing-based Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was not involved with the study.
The findings, by climate researcher Yu Ge and her colleagues at the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Jiangsu province, are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research1.
In population ecology, researchers have been debating what controls the size of species populations over long time periods. Some think that climate has a dominant role, whereas others hold that internal biological mechanisms, such as competition and predation, are more important.
To determine which model is correct, long-term data on changes in species populations are crucial. This has led researchers to turn to historical records of locust outbreaks. Such swarms can ravish crops, causing famine and consequent social unrest, so for more than 2,000 years, officials in China have recorded details of the outbreaks — such as their frequency and severity, the affected areas and the number of people who died of famine following infestations — with the aim of predicting and controlling them.
Full Story at Nature.com