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Urban heat boosts some pest populations 200-fold, killing red maples
Date:7/23/2014

New research from North Carolina State University shows that urban "heat islands" are slowly killing red maples in the southeastern United States. One factor is that researchers have found warmer temperatures increase the number of young produced by the gloomy scale insect a significant tree pest by 300 percent, which in turn leads to 200 times more adult gloomy scales on urban trees.

"We'd been seeing higher numbers of plant-eating insects like the gloomy scale in cities, and now we know why," says Adam Dale, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of two papers describing the work. "These findings also raise concerns about potential pest outbreaks as temperatures increase due to global climate change."

Gloomy scales suck sap from trees, removing nutrients and energy. This reduces tree growth and can eventually kill trees.

The researchers focused specifically on the abundance of gloomy scales on red maple (Acer rubrum) trees at 26 sites in Raleigh, North Carolina. "We wanted to look at the most important pest species of the most common tree species in urban areas of the southeastern United States," says Dr. Steve Frank, an assistant professor of entomology at NC State and senior author of the papers.

Urbanization reduces the amount of vegetation in a habitat and increases impervious surfaces such as roads and rooftops. This can diminish predator and parasitoid communities and their ability to control pests. However, it also makes cities hotter than rural areas. The researchers collected data on a wide variety of ecological variables that could affect gloomy scale populations, including habitat characteristics, the temperature at each tree site, and the abundance of predators and parasitoids.

"Temperature was the most important predictor of gloomy scale abundance the warmer it was, the more scale insects we found," Dale says. "The other variables we looked at had no significant effect on gloomy scale ab
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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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