Including irrigation in niche modelling of the invasive wasp Vespula germanica (Fabricius) improves model fit to predict potential for further spread

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de Villiers, Marelize ; Kriticos, Darren J. ; Veldtman, Ruan (2017)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 12, issue 7 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC5513550, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181397
  • Subject: Research Article | Earth Sciences | Agricultural Methods | Ecology and Environmental Sciences | Classical Mechanics | Mechanical Stress | Geographical Locations | Summer | Agriculture | Physical Sciences | Argentina | People and Places | Oceania | Physics | South America | Species Colonization | Seasons | Biology and Life Sciences | Medicine | Australia | Invasive Species | Agricultural Irrigation | Q | R | Science | Thermal Stresses | Autumn

The European wasp, Vespula germanica (Fabricius) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), is of Palaearctic origin, being native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia, and introduced into North America, Chile, Argentina, Iceland, Ascension Island, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Due to its polyphagous nature and scavenging behaviour, V. germanica threatens agriculture and silviculture, and negatively affects biodiversity, while its aggressive nature and venomous sting pose a health risk to humans. In areas with warmer winters and longer summers, queens and workers can survive the winter months, leading to the build-up of large nests during the following season; thereby increasing the risk posed by this species. To prevent or prepare for such unwanted impacts it is important to know where the wasp may be able to establish, either through natural spread or through introduction as a result of human transport. Distribution data from Argentina and Australia, and seasonal phenology data from Argentina were used to determine the potential distribution of V. germanica using CLIMEX modelling. In contrast to previous models, the influence of irrigation on its distribution was also investigated. Under a natural rainfall scenario, the model showed similarities to previous models. When irrigation is applied, dry stress is alleviated, leading to larger areas modelled climatically suitable compared with previous models, which provided a better fit with the actual distribution of the species. The main areas at risk of invasion by V. germanica include western USA, Mexico, small areas in Central America and in the north-western region of South America, eastern Brazil, western Russia, north-western China, Japan, the Mediterranean coastal regions of North Africa, and parts of southern and eastern Africa.
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