Dr. Madeleine Barton
Supervisor: John S. Terblanche
Project title:Predicting how agricultural insect pests in South Africa will respond to climate change.
Predicting how species are likely to respond to climate change is a major challenge in ecological research, and is particularly important for agricultural insect pests that cause substantial damage to crops and economies, and threaten future global food security. To this end, there have been recent advances in species distributions modelling studies, which statistically correlate patterns in species occurrence records with climatic variables, and then project these relationships back across landscapes. While predictions of the distribution of species are informative, land managers often require more detailed information regarding pest species ecology, their phenology, population abundances and foraging success (i.e. potential for crop damage).
This project aims to develop a process-based model to explore how climate change is likely to affect the performance and survival of three significant insect pests across South Africa: Ceratitis capitata C. cosyra and C. rosa, as well as other Lepidopteran pests. The modelling technique incorporates information on the insects’ thermal physiology, behaviour and adaptive potential, as well as the microclimates the different life-history stages of the species might encounter. Once developed, the framework provides a powerful tool to explore how changes in climate, land-management practises and species adaptations can shape distributions and ecological traits of these pests under current, and future, climates.