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Periodic temperature-associated drought/flood drives locust plagues in China

By Zhibin Zhang, Bernard Cazelles, Huidong Tian, Leif Christian Stige, Achim Bräuning and Nils Chr. Stenseth


Global warming is currently of great concern. Yet the ecological effects of low-frequency climate variations remain largely unknown. Recent analyses of interdecadal variability in population abundance of the Oriental migratory locust (Locusta migratoria manilensis) in China have revealed negative associations with temperature and positive associations with Yangtze drought and flood frequencies during the past millennium (AD 957–1956). In order to shed new light on the causal relationships between locust abundance, floods, droughts and temperature in ancient China, we used wavelet analysis to explore how the coherencies between the different variables at different frequencies have been changed during the past millennium. We find consistent in-phase coherencies between locusts and drought/flood frequencies, and out-of-phase coherencies between locusts and temperature and between drought/flood and temperature at period components of 160–170 years. Similar results are obtained when historical data of drought/flood frequencies of the Yangtze Delta region are used, despite flood data showing a weak and somewhat inconsistent association with other factors. We suggest that previously unreported periodic cooling of 160–170-year intervals dominate climatic variability in China through the past millennium, the cooling events promoting locust plagues by enhancing temperature-associated drought/flood events. Our results signify a rare example of possible benign effects of global warming on the regional risk of natural disasters such as flood/drought events and outbreaks of pest insects

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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