As delegates from 195 nations meet in Paris to debate mankind's response to global climate change, scientists from the University of Kansas and Rothamsted Research in England today issue a study of a major crop pest that underlines how "climate is changing in more ways than just warming."
Their paper, appearing in Nature Climate Change, shows how large-scale climatic changes drive a coordinated rise and fall of numbers of aphids across Great Britain, even when individual aphid populations in that nation are separated by great distance.
The researchers studied a phenomenon called "spatial synchrony," revealing how changing climate can effect ecological populations through increases in average temperature and changes in how climatic fluctuations in different areas relate to each other.
"If you care about crops, you have a reason to care about how climate change affects crop pests like aphids," said Daniel Reuman, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU and senior scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey, who co-authored the paper.
"If you eat, you have a reason to care about crops," he said.
The scientists looked at decades' worth of population surveys of 20 aphid species carried out with suction traps throughout Britain. In the data, they searched out triggers for shifts in spatial synchrony among aphid numbers over multiple timescales -- triggers that, until now, have been hard for researchers to determine.