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Global change and pine processionary moth: A new challenge for integrated pest management

The pine processionary moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is considered among the most important limiting factors for both growth and survival of pine forests in southern Europe and Mediterranean countries. In recent years, the species has shown a tendency to expand its range to upper latitude and elevation, probably because of the global warming effect. Large outbreak areas have been observed in regions where the pest was absent or rarely recorded, for example, in central France and in the Alps. The natural enemies that maintain some level of control over insect populations in core areas may also be affected by global climate change, as well as the host plants. Changes in the nutritional and defensive characteristics of the host plants may drive changes in levels of insect damage in both core and expansion areas.

The objectives are:
1) to assess the risk of outbreaks in new regions by a temperature-based model, which will take into account the available predictions from global warming studies and the thermal requirements of the pest. An estimation of the socio-economic impact of the expansion of the pine processionary moth in European pine ecosystems will be done.
2) to understand the genetic structure of populations in core and expansion areas by means of molecular markers. The project will try to reconstruct the colonisation ways of adult moths and to verify if the expansion of the range has concerned all or part of the populations of core area.
3) to find out which chemical signals are active in host attraction/repellence, insect performance and sex identification system in core as well as in expansion areas. The results will be taken as a basis for the evaluation of potential use of attractants (pheromone and kairomone)/repellents and anti-feeding compounds in pest management.
4) to assess if the bio-control strategies currently applied in core areas, based mostly on Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, can be extended to expansion areas without potential risks such as side effects and resistance development. The possibility of using natural enemies (parasitoids, predators and pathogens) from core area for inoculative release in expanding areas will be explored.
5) to elaborate a cost-benefit analysis of a new integrated pest management scheme in core and expansion areas, including off site and off market effects, and to define policy tools and other possible market-based actions able to improve pest management profitability both private and public.
6) to exploit and disseminate the results of the project in all European and non-European countries where the processionary moth is or might become a pest. Special attention will be paid to the less developed regions, where the impact of the pest would greatly affect the survival and the permanence of the forest cover.

Progress to Date
Data for the preparation of a GIS-supported model for the assessment of the range of the processionary moth have been collected and analysed, defining a mechanistic model predicting winter feeding and survival of the larvae. The tool will allow to test different scenarios related to global change effects.
Several populations of the core and expansion range have been sampled and analysed in southern Europe and Mediterranean countries, for the phylogenetic reconstruction of the group of pine processionary moth. The tool will assess the validity of sibling species and understand the adaptation to host pines, environment, and the potential effect of global change.
The host recognition system in the processionary moth has been thoroughly studied and showed that different cues are involved. The assessment of the moth preference and larval performance in core as well as in expansion areas showed that host species do not limit the expansion of the moth in new areas. Pheromone trapping is suitable for monitoring core and expansion populations.
The bioassays of the susceptibility of expansion populations to commercial preparations of the Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki showed that differences in susceptibility can be due to different factors. A bio-control strategy for the expansion areas which could ensure tree protection and reduce the risk of resistance development and side effects will be provided.
Key species of natural enemies have been identified and their activity evaluated in relation to environmental conditions and spreading potential in the expansion areas.
The socio-economic impact of the pest in core and expansion areas has been assessed and will be included in a cost-benefit analysis at larger scale.
Exploitation and dissemination of the results at the various levels of end-users, according to the specific function of the forest or other type of tree cultivation, by publications and the project web page.


Scientist responsible for the project

Agripolis Via Romea 16
35020 Legnaro PD
Italy - IT

Phone: +39 049 827 2804
Fax: +39 049 827 2810


Project ID QLRT-2001-00852
Organisation University of Padova - Dep. of Environmental Agronomy - Entomology
Area 5.3.1
Start date 01 September 2002
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 1 558 102 €
Total EC contribution   1 243 106 €
Status Ongoing
Web address of the project

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