Climate induced species range shifts might create novel interactions among species that may outweigh direct climatic effects. In an agricultural context, climate change might alter the intensity of competition or facilitation interactions among pests with, potentially, negative consequences on the levels of damage to crop. This could threaten the productivity of agricultural systems and have negative impacts on food security, but has yet been poorly considered in studies. In this contribution, we constructed and evaluated process-based species distribution models for three invasive potato pests in the Tropical Andean Region. These three species have been found to co-occur and interact within the same potato tuber, causing different levels of damage to crop. Our models allowed us to predict the current and future distribution of the species and therefore, to assess how damage to crop might change in the future due to novel interactions. In general, our study revealed the main challenges related to distribution modeling of invasive pests in highly heterogeneous regions. It yielded different results for the three species, both in terms of accuracy and distribution, with one species surviving best at lower altitudes and the other two performing better at higher altitudes. As to future distributions our results suggested that the three species will show different responses to climate change, with one of them expanding to higher altitudes, another contracting its range and the other shifting its distribution to higher altitudes. These changes will result in novel areas of co-occurrence and hence, interactions of the pests, which will cause different levels of damage to crop. Combining population dynamics and species distribution models that incorporate interspecific trade-off relationships in different environments revealed a powerful approach to provide predictions about the response of an assemblage of interacting species to future environmental changes and their impact on process rates.
Keywords: Phthorimaea operculella; Symmetrischema tangolias; Tecia solanivora; agricultural pests; climate change; climatic variability; hazard mapping; heterogeneous landscapes; individual based model; potato tuber moth.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.