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Climate change and coevolution: We've done the math
Date:10/24/2013

"Many earlier studies have looked at how climate change might affect the evolution of particular species, and more recently there has been some investigation of how interacting species might change in the short term."

"We used simple models of competition, predation and mutualism to consider how these interactions might change over longer time periods, and how that, in turn will affect each species," Dr Northfield said.

"The nature of climate change means that we don't have years and centuries to observe changes in nature. Mathematical modeling gives us a way to calculate what the future might look like," he said.

The study began, with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, as an investigation of how pest insect population densities might change in cropping regions.

"One of our findings is that when predators attack crop pests and benefit agriculture, such as lady beetles eating aphids, the predator and prey will both evolve in response to climate change and will reduce the effect of climate change on crop damage," Dr Northfield said.

The researchers have suggested ways to evaluate their rule of thumb.

"Insect populations are a good testing ground for our theory, because it is relatively easy to include many insects in an experiment, and they reproduce quickly, allowing faster evolution," Dr Northfield said.

"For example, by looking at insect/plant interactions at different latitudes, it is possible to observe how coevolving species, and their interactions, vary in different climatic conditions.

"If you know what type of coevolution drives the interaction, you can make predictions of how it will affect the species densities across the different latitudes."

The paper also suggests ways for researchers to determine which type of coevolution (conflicting or non-conflicting) drives a particular species interaction.

"This is not as clear and straightfo
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Contact: Linden Woodward
linden.woodward@jcu.edu.au
61-742-321-007
James Cook University
Source:Eurekalert

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