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Climate change impact on neotropical social wasps

Déjean A., Céréghino R., Carpenter J.M., Corbara B., Hérault B., Rossi V., Leponce M., Orivel J., Bonal D.. 2011. PloS One, 6 (11) : 16 p..

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027004

Establishing a direct link between climate change and fluctuations in animal populations through long-term monitoring is difficult given the paucity of baseline data. We hypothesized that social wasps are sensitive to climatic variations, and thus studied the impact of ENSO events on social wasp populations in French Guiana. We noted that during the 2000 La Niña year there was a 77.1% decrease in their nest abundance along ca. 5 km of forest edges, and that 70.5% of the species were no longer present. Two simultaneous 13-year surveys (1997-2009) confirmed the decrease in social wasps during La Niña years (2000 and 2006), while an increase occurred during the 2009 El Niño year. A 30-year weather survey showed that these phenomena corresponded to particularly high levels of rainfall, and that temperature, humidity and global solar radiation were correlated with rainfall. Using the Self-Organizing Map algorithm, we show that heavy rainfall during an entire rainy season has a negative impact on social wasps. Strong contrasts in rainfall between the dry season and the short rainy season exacerbate this effect. Social wasp populations never recovered to their pre-2000 levels. This is probably because these conditions occurred over four years; heavy rainfall during the major rainy seasons during four other years also had a detrimental effect. On the contrary, low levels of rainfall during the major rainy season in 2009 spurred an increase in social wasp populations. We conclude that recent climatic changes have likely resulted in fewer social wasp colonies because they have lowered the wasps' resistance to parasitoids and pathogens. These results imply that Neotropical social wasps can be regarded as bio-indicators because they highlight the impact of climatic changes not yet perceptible in plants and other animals.

Mots-clés : vespidae; changement climatique; Écologie animale; dynamique des populations; impact sur l'environnement; citrus maxima; guyane française; france

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