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In the Mediterranean and temperate regions, an increase in the frequency and intensity of drought events has been recorded, probably due to climate change. In consequence, trees will more frequently experience hydric stress, a condition that can be expected to affect insect–tree interactions, while adaptation mechanisms may be further in course. The effect of tree water stress on the performance of two allochronic populations of Thaumetopoea pityocampa was here studied. Namely, we compared a unique population of this insect, in which the larvae develop in the summer (SP), with the typical population having winter larval development (WP), to test the adaptation hypothesis to host plant status. Larvae of each population were fed on needles of young potted Pinus pinaster plants under two water supply regimes: (i) well-watered (control) and (ii) subjected to 3 months of drought stress. Compared to control, stressed plants had higher amounts of soluble sugars, phenols, and higher C/N ratio, whereas water content and chlorophylls concentrations were lower. In general, T. pityocampa larvae had lower performances on water-stressed plants, as shown by lower survival rates, lower needle consumption, and longer development times. Yet, the detrimental effects of tree stress were only significant for the WP larvae, while SP larvae were able to overcome such conditions. Results demonstrate that tree water stress can negatively affect T. pityocampa populations. Furthermore, the evidence is also provided that responses to the physiological condition of the host trees may occur at the population level, as a result of adaptation mechanisms driven by climate change.
Extreme climate events such as heat waves are predicted to become more frequent with climate change, representing a challenge for many organisms. The pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa is a Mediterranean pine defoliator, which typically lays eggs during the summer. We evaluated the effects of heat waves on egg mortality of three populations with different phenologies: a Portuguese population with a classical life cycle (eggs laid in summer), an allochronic Portuguese population reproducing in spring, and a Tunisian population from the extreme southern limit of T. pityocampa distribution range, in which eggs are laid in fall. We tested the influence of three consecutive hot days on egg survival and development time, using either constant (CT) or daily cycling temperatures (DT) with equivalent mean temperatures. Maximum temperatures (Tmax) used in the experiment ranged from 36 to 48°C for DT and from 30 to 42°C for CT. Heat waves had a severe negative effect on egg survival when Tmax reached 42°C for all populations. No embryo survived above this threshold. At high mean temperatures (40°C), significant differences were observed between populations and between DT and CT regimes. Heat waves further increased embryo development time. The knowledge we gained about the upper lethal temperature to embryos of this species will permit better prediction of the potential expansion of this insect under different climate warming scenarios.
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