Insect Impact Set to Increase With Climate Change

Scientists studying the impact of insect feeding on a birch species (Betula pubescens) native to Northern Europe have concluded that damage to European forests through insect feeding will be exacerbated by increased global warming.

Trees damaged by insects compete less well with other species. Therefore the scientists predict a shift in the future composition of European forests as temperatures increase, with a consequent effect on forest ecosystems. As temperatures rise, insects are set to spread further north into Europe, with increasing numbers surviving milder winters. Eastern areas of Northern Europe could see damage to leaves of the birch trees increase by 5%, whilst a one degree rise in summer temperature in Scandinavia could double the incidence of insect damage.

The scientists recommend that an increase in insect damage to trees should be taken into account when modelling the impact of climate change on ecosystems.

Wolf, A., M. V. Kozlov and T. V. Callaghan (2008). Impact of non-outbreak insect damage on vegetation in northern Europe will be greater than expected during a changing climate. Climatic Change 87: 91-106.