Brown locust outbreaks and climate variability in southern Africa
Article first published online: 26 JUN 2002
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 39, Issue 1, pages 31–42, February 2002
How to Cite
Todd, M. C., Washington, R., Cheke, R. A. and Kniveton, D. (2002), Brown locust outbreaks and climate variability in southern Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology, 39: 31–42. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00691.x
- Issue published online: 26 JUN 2002
- Article first published online: 26 JUN 2002
- Received 11 May 2001; final copy received 20 September 2001
- Kalman filter;
- population dynamics;
- seasonal forecasting;
- sea-surface temperatures
- 1The brown locust Locustana pardalina is a major agricultural pest in southern Africa, with populations periodically reaching plague proportions. Management and control would benefit from a predictive capacity at seasonal time scales, as yet unavailable.
- 2The results of a study into the dynamics and potential predictability of locust populations in southern Africa are presented here. The number of districts reporting locust control measures was used as a proxy for swarming brown locust populations.
- 3Spectral analysis of the annual number of brown locust infestations over southern Africa revealed dominant periodicity at 17·3 years. The data were low-pass filtered and the low-frequency and high-frequency components were retained. The low-frequency component led the observed 18-year cycle in southern African rainfall by about 3 years, and was therefore likely to reflect endogenous controls on populations.
- 4Variability in the interannual high-frequency component of brown locust infestations was strongly related to rainfall over the Karoo and Eastern Cape regions of South Africa. The highest correlations were with rainfall over the 12 months prior to the locust season (r = 0·64) and in particular with rainfall during December (r = 0·55).
- 5Evidence is presented that the high-frequency component is related to the Pacific El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and that high-frequency locust activity is abnormally high (low) during La Niña (El Niño) events.
- 6The high-frequency component of locust activity correlates positively and negatively, respectively, with sea-surface temperatures over the tropical western and eastern Pacific Ocean many months in advance of the locust season. Activity also correlates positively (negatively) with sea-surface temperatures over the south-west Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean (west and north-west Indian Ocean). These relationships occur later than those in the Pacific, developing in the austral winter and peaking in early summer. This pattern of correlations and the associated atmospheric circulation anomalies is consistent with ENSO-related and non-ENSO related patterns of climate variability.
- 7The results suggest that there may be considerable scope for future development of models for the seasonal prediction of brown locust activity in which high-frequency variability is related to climatic indices.