Locust outbreaks are predicted to intensify significantly as a result of climate change, according to recent studies. These insects, notorious for destroying crops, could pose higher risks as extreme weather intensifies.

The study warns that unpredictable weather patterns fueled by climate change could make the outbreaks harder to control. This could pose substantial threats to global food security and agricultural industries.

Analyzing data from 1985 to 2020, researchers found that 10 countries, including Kenya and Yemen, bore the brunt of the outbreaks. The worst outbreak in 25 years hit East Africa in 2019-2020, devastating farmlands.

The research also emphasized the need for better understanding and anticipation of these climate-driven locust outbreaks. Factors like air temperature, rainfall, and wind strongly influence the magnitude of the outbreaks. El Nino events exacerbate these conditions, leading to larger swarms.

Douglas Tallamy, an entomology professor, warns that erratic weather patterns fuel population growth in locusts, making outbreaks more likely.

“As such variability increases, it is logical to predict that locust outbreaks will increase as well,” said Tallamy.

The study predicts that vulnerable regions like Morocco and Kenya will remain at high risk. It also forecasts locust habitats expanding by at least 5% by the end of the century, reaching regions like West India and Central Asia.

Financially, major outbreaks can be devastating. Responding to an outbreak in West Africa from 2003 to 2005 cost over $450 million, with $2.5 billion in crop damage.

Xiaogang He, the study’s author, stresses the urgent need to address these risks to prevent further strain on food production systems and exacerbation of global food insecurity.

These findings show the need for effective mitigation strategies and adaptive agricultural practices. The potentially devastating impact on global food security cannot be overstated, with locust swarms capable of decimating entire fields of crops in a matter of hours.

Image Source: Food For Mzansi