a1 Division of Plant Pathology and Crop Protection, Department of Crop Science, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Grisebachstrasse 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
Climate change biology is witnessing a significant quantity of new publications each year, which compromises efforts to keep up-to-date on the rapidly growing body of climate change biology literature. The present paper provides an overview on research approaches and challenges in climate change biology with respect to plant pathogens, insect pests and weeds (collectively termed ‘pests’ here). It also summarizes the suggestions of researchers about how to conceptualize and prioritize future research strategies. Recently published key studies demonstrate that climate change research is qualitatively advancing and that the interactions among environmental and biotic factors which have been found are complex. This complexity hinders attempts to generalize responses of pests to changes in climate. The challenge remains to identify the most significant causal relationships and to separate them from other factors such as crop management practices, which may also influence the observed changes in pest distribution and prevalence in managed ecosystems. In addition, the present overview shows that there are still gaps in many research areas, while other fields have been intensively investigated. For example, the identification of potential benefits in plant protection that may emerge from future climate change has not been explored as extensively as the potential threats. However, encouraging developments can be observed in recent climate change research, for instance the increased number of studies performed under subtropical and tropical climatic conditions, the increased availability of results from multi-factorial field experiments and modelling studies do consider increasingly pest–crop–climate interactions. Further progress can be expected, provided that researchers, sponsors and other stakeholders maintain their interest in climate change biology research.
(Received September 14 2011)
(Revised April 24 2012)
(Accepted April 27 2012)
(Online publication May 23 2012)