Global warming is causing changes in how pests migrate.
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A team of researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford in the UK finds that many crop pests are spreading away from the tropics towards the north and south poles at an average rate of about two miles (3 kilometers) a year. While the spread is mostly facilitated by human transportation, the new study suggests that warming temperatures are allowing these organisms to flourish in regions that were once too cold for them to survive. The research was published Sept. 1 online in the journal Nature Climate Change.
To arrive at their results, the team looked at records of 612 crop pests and pathogens from around the globe that had been collected over the past 50 years. These included insects, such as the mountain pine beetle that is killing trees in the U.S., fungi, bacteria, viruses, moths, and microscopic nematode worms. The researchers found that, in general, the pests were moving closer to the north and south poles each decade. Adding to the problem is that pests are spreading faster than their predators, putting delicately-balanced ecosystems at risk.