Identification and Risk Assessment for Worldwide Invasion and Spread of Tuta absoluta with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Phytosanitary Measures and Management.
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To support management decisions, molecular characterization of data and geo-reference of incidence records of Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) were combined with data on the biology and ecology of the pest to estimate its climatic suitability and potential spread at regional and global scale. A CLIMEX model was developed and used for the global prediction of current and future climate-induced changes in the distributional shifts of T. absoluta. Results revealed that temperature and moisture characterized T. absoluta population growth while the pest ability to survive the cold, hot, wet and dry stress conditions are the primary characteristics defining its range frontiers. Simulated irrigation also played an important role in the model optimization. Model predictions suggest that T. absoluta represents an important threat to Africa, Asia, Australia, Northern Europe, New Zealand, Russian Federation and the United States of America (USA). Under climate change context, future predictions on distribution of T. absoluta indicated that the invasive nature of this pest will result in significant crop losses in certain locations whereas some parts of Africa may witness diminution in ranges. The following scenarios may occur: 1) T. absoluta damage potential may upsurge moderately in areas of Africa where the pest currently exists; 2) a range diminution in temperate to Sahel region with moderate upsurge in damage potential; 3) a range expansion in tropical Africa with reasonable upsurge of damage potential. These possible outcomes could be explained by the fact that the continent is already warm, with the average temperature in majority of localities near the threshold temperatures for optimal development and survival of T. absoluta. Outputs from this study should be useful in helping decision-makers in their assessment of site-specific risks of invasion and spread of T. absoluta with a view to developing appropriate surveillance, phytosanitary measures and management strategies.
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