Some like it hot! Rapid climate change promotes changes in distribution ranges of Nezara viridula and Nezara antennata in Japan


  • Daisuke Tougou and Dmitry L. Musolin contributed equally to this work.

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We compared past and current limits of the distribution range of the southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula (L.) (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae), in central Japan. In the early 1960s, the northern limit of the range was in Wakayama Prefecture and was limited by a +5 °C isothermal line for the mean January temperature. In 2006–2007, a new survey demonstrated that this northern limit had shifted northwards by 85 km (i.e., at a mean rate of 19.0 km per decade). The shift was most likely promoted by milder winter conditions. The mean January to February temperature in the region was 1.03–1.91 °C higher in 1998–2007 than in 1960–1969. The number of cold days (with the mean temperature below +5 °C) also significantly decreased, while the annual lowest temperature significantly increased. Nezara viridula was found mostly close to those locations where (i) the mean January temperature exceeded +5 °C, (ii) the mean number of cold days did not exceed 26 in January to February, and (iii) where the mean annual lowest temperature did not drop below –3.0 °C. The general linear model shows that the mean January temperature and number of cold days are the most important factors controlling the northern limit of distribution of N. viridula. All the climatic data suggest that over the last 45 years, environmental conditions have become more favourable for overwintering of N. viridula at many locations in central Japan. This has probably promoted the northward spread of the species, representing a direct response to climate warming. A sympatrically distributed congeneric, Nezara antennata Scott, seems to respond to the warming by a retreat from the ocean coast towards cooler elevated habitats, which might be a complex response to elevated temperature and interspecific mating with N. viridula. It is suggested that the range changes in both species will continue in response to further climate change.