Predicted decrease in global climate suitability masks regional complexity of invasive fruit fly species response to climate change

18 May 2016

Climate change affects the rate of insect invasions as well as the abundance, distribution and impacts of such invasions on a global scale. Among the principal analytical approaches to predicting and understanding future impacts of biological invasions are Species Distribution Models (SDMs), typically in the form of correlative Ecological Niche Models (ENMs). An underlying assumption of ENMs is that species–environment relationships remain preserved during extrapolations in space and time, although this is widely criticised. The semi-mechanistic modelling platform, CLIMEX, employs a top-down approach using species ecophysiological traits and is able to avoid some of the issues of extrapolation, making it highly applicable to investigating biological invasions in the context of climate change. The tephritid fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) comprise some of the most successful invasive species and serious economic pests around the world. Here we project 12 tephritid species CLIMEX models into future climate scenarios to examine overall patterns of climate suitability and forecast potential distributional changes for this group. We further compare the aggregate response of the group against species-specific responses. We then consider additional drivers of biological invasions to examine how invasion potential is influenced by climate, fruit production and trade indices. Considering the group of tephritid species examined here, climate change is predicted to decrease global climate suitability and to shift the cumulative distribution poleward. However, when examining species-level patterns, the predominant directionality of range shifts for 11 of the 12 species is eastward. Most notably, management will need to consider regional changes in fruit fly species invasion potential where high fruit production, trade indices and predicted distributions of these flies overlap.