Pest Suppression in the Face of Climate Change, Pesticides, and GM Crops

Not only will warming climates lead to shifts in the areas suitable for agricultural production, but it will also likely lead to range expansions of tropical pests, increases in pest numbers and damage, with a parallel risk of a drop in the efficacy of pest suppression by natural enemies that might be negatively affected by climate change (Thomson et al. 2010; Bebber et al. 2013). Such changes will make the ecosystem services provided by generalist predators like insectivorous bats more valuable than ever before. However, if agricultural adaptation to climate change relies on landscape-level intensification as a strategy, bats are likely to decline further, reducing their provision of pest suppression services. Despite the myriad negative effects of pesticides (i.e., affecting livelihoods, food security, environment, and health; reviewed by Yadav 2010), farmers across the world might turn to agrochemicals as a first response to increases in pest damage (Wilson and Tisdell 2001), with the Old World's rapid development of more environmentally friendly farming practices appearing as an exception in this general move. As reviewed in this chapter, older pesticide classes such as organochlorines have particularly detrimental effects on bat populations. However, the degree to which newer pesticide classes affect bats is largely unknown. The neonicotinoids, once touted for their low toxicity, have now been linked to major declines in bees (Van der Sluijs et al. 2013) and more recently in several species of passerines as a result of insect resource depletion (Hallmann et al. 2014). The extent to which use of next-generation pesticides and GM crops is driving and interacting with bat declines and resultant increases in pest damage is a critical research area.

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