Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Climate Change (July 2017): Pests and Pollinators

By Diane P. Genereux and David A. Lovejoy

Pests and Pollinators

A long-standing, evolutionary arms race pits human approaches to exclude pests against pests whose large population sizes and short generation time tend to enable rapid evolution to evade control strategies. For a broad, historical perspective on this arms race, see Andy Dyer’s Chasing the Red Queen: The Evolutionary Race between Agricultural Pests and Poisons. At least with regard to insects, climate change threatens to further tip the scales in favor of pests rather than the humans that seek to control them. In Climate Change and Insect Pests, editors Christer BjÖrkman and Pekka Niemelä explain these shifts largely in terms of the physiological properties of insects. Because their metabolic rates are closely tied to ambient temperature, insect populations are anticipated to expand in a warming environment. Insofar as larger population size provides opportunity for greater diversity, it can increase opportunity for evolutionary responses. This work also emphasizes pest evolution in the context of complex, multispecies ecological interactions. In Global Climate Change and Terrestrial Invertebrates, editors Scott N. Johnson and T. Hefin Jones focus instead on pollinators, whose emergence time relative to flowering time can have profound implications for agricultural success. Johnson and Jones echo, in the context of insect biology, Primack’s emphasis on how comparison of historical and contemporary data on species phenology and distribution can provide critical previews of how individual species are responding to climate change. Finally, those seeking a broader, comparative perspective will be interested in Aleksandr Sergeevich Isaev et al.’s Forest Insect Population Dynamics, Outbreaks, and Global Warming Effects, which describes how the population dynamics and density of a given insect species can be used to predict its response to climate change, and establishes modeling-based approaches that may be applicable to other, non-insect species.