Scientists: global warming threatens earthlings with biblical misfortunes
On 27 of July, a cloud of grasshoppers covered Las Vegas, being in the center of news releases circling the world. They flew from the desert, attracted by the lights of the big city. At the same time, a cloud of insects invaded Yemen - a state devastated by the civil war and suffering from food shortages.
The second invasion was less of an interest to the media, although it had much more disturbing consequences: it was a locust, whose famous gluttony is capable of causing significant damage to the crop in more than 60 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. These two episodes, at first glance quite different, are, in the opinion of some researchers, links of the same chain and threaten to become a frequent occurrence: scientists warn that global warming entails changes in the behavior of insects, which become more dangerous and less predictable, writes with the BBC.
Hunger is not an aunt
Scientists already have evidence that an increase in temperature in the atmosphere causes changes in the metabolism of insects.
In 2018, a group of American researchers published an article in the journal Science, which stated that the warmer around, the more active the reproductive function of insects, and the better their appetite.
Thus, the desert locust absorbs a quantity of food equal to its own weight per day.
Object of observation - locust
Researchers believe that with an increase in temperature of just one degree Celsius, the damage caused by insects to a crop of wheat, rice and corn can increase by 10-25 percent.
The greatest damage at the same time threatens areas with a temperate climate, where most of the agricultural products are grown.
“Everywhere, with the exception of the tropics, an increase in temperature leads to an increase in the insect population. Thus, there are more individuals who eat more, ”writes Curtis Deutsch, one of the authors of the study.
Despite the fact that locusts are not the only pest capable of destroying crops, it remains the only species that acts as an object of regular monitoring at the national and international levels. All because of her notoriety and destructive potential.
Over the past forty years, the growth of the locust population has been controlled, but several serious incidents have occurred, such as the invasion of hordes of insects in 2004 in Africa, as a result of which damage to agriculture in the form of crop losses reached 2,5 billion dollars.
Food Security Threat
Although, according to estimates, the share of locusts in the total amount of damage from insects is relatively small - only 0,2% - nevertheless, the effect that the local population can have on the region can be destructive.
“Climate change on the northern and southern borders of the desert locust habitat — it is becoming drier — can significantly expand this habitat, which will have important and negative consequences,” said Michael Le Coke, one of the leading world locust specialists.
“The stakes in this game on crops, pastures, food supplies and, ultimately, social protection for the poor in such regions can be enormous,” warns Le Coke.
As one of the most devastating disasters, desert locusts, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have the potential to destroy up to 10% of global food supplies.
Even a small flock of locusts eats a sufficient amount of food per day to feed 35 thousand people.
Their favorite delicacy is the main crops: rice, corn, wheat.
These creatures are one of the oldest enemies of mankind: they are mentioned in the Bible and the Qur'an. Thus, in the Bible, the invasion of locusts became one of the ten famous “executions of the Egyptians” - the punishments that the Egyptians were subjected to for the oppression of the sons of Israel.
The ancient historian Pliny the Elder tells of 800 thousands of people in the territory of modern Libya, Algeria and Tunisia who died of starvation, which was caused by the locust invasion.
More recently - in the 1958 year, in Ethiopia - locusts, covering a territory of a thousand square kilometers, destroyed 167 thousand tons of wheat - a volume sufficient to feed a million people for a year.
More moderate regions are at greater risk: insect metabolism accelerates when it gets warmer around, but slows down when it gets too hot, which can be observed in the tropics.
It is the general warming in Argentina that experts consider the reason for the invasion of the locust of 2016 of the year - the largest in 60 of years.
Further higher faster
The FAO, which regularly monitors desert locust activity, also reports that global warming is helping to establish favorable conditions for the locust population, whose adults can travel up to 150 km per day under such conditions.
According to the agency, this means that in the future, locusts will move much faster.
Moreover, an increase in ambient temperature allows insects to rise higher and overcome natural obstacles in the form of mountains, thereby discovering new migration routes, especially in the presence of a fair wind.
On the subject: How global warming will affect air travel
“In general, we expect locust attacks to become more frequent and widespread in the future under global warming,” says Erian Sees, director of the Global Locust Research Initiative at the University of Arizona.
The most threatened regions are those primarily oriented to farming.
At the same time, not only food crop producers are at risk: in Pakistan, due to the locust invasion, the preservation of the cotton crop, a crop, in one form or another, accounting for almost half of the national export, was threatened.
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