Processionary pine moths. © INRA, Jean-Claude Martin

Adaptation and animal and plant health

International Action PCLIM - International research network about the adaptive response of processionary moths and their associated organisms to climate change

The project aims at constituting a multidisciplinary network involving scientists of all disciplines interested in the relationships between climate change and processionary moths, which are both forest pests and sanitary threat from humans and animals in Europe, North Africa and Minor Asia. The network includes entomologists, ecologists, molecular biologists, and forest managers as well as medical and veterinary doctors, epidemiologists and mathematical modelers. Major objectives are to develop joint works combining entomological approaches with human and animal sanitary studies, and predictive modelling of the future insect range, and the areas at sanitary risk, under different scenarios of climate change.

Updated on 03/02/2015
Published on 10/10/2014

Pine processionary moth is one of the few insect species for which the role of climate change in the expansion of populations in latitude and altitude has been clearly established. It was subsequently selected by IPCC as a model for the study of insect adaptive responses to climate change. Larval development taking place in winter, warmer winter temperatures induces a significantly higher survival of larvae. Therefore, the thermal limits which bounded the moth range have been relaxed since the late 1990s in a large part of Europe. Moth populations naturally expanded by more than 100 km during the last 20 years in France but accidental human introductions have also allowed moth colonies to establish well beyond the front edge (eg. in Alsace). The highly urticating larvae of this species thus colonize semi -urban and urban areas, and this forest pest species turned to a sanitary threat to humans and domestic animals.

Carte du front nord d’expansion de la processionnaire du pin en Europe (en rouge : limite de présence ; en vert : absence de l’insecte certifiée en 2012). © INRA, A Roques & C. Robinet
Carte du front nord d’expansion de la processionnaire du pin en Europe (en rouge : limite de présence ; en vert : absence de l’insecte certifiée en 2012) © INRA, A Roques & C. Robinet

However, previous researches have almost systematically separated the environmental and health studies, making impossible an integrated approach taking into account the variability of insect populations and the responses of humans and animals. In particular, the adaptive responses of the expanding populations are unknown, including possible variations in the larvae urticating capacities, adult flight performance or in resistance to colder conditions. Meanwhile, the response to climate change remains little known in other species of processionary moth such as those with summer larval development or developing on oaks.

PCLIM objective was therefore to constitute an international network of scientists of all disciplines interested in processionary moths and climate change, such as entomologists, ecologists, molecular biologists, medical and veterinary doctors, epidemiologists and mathematical modelers.  to move towards joint studies combining entomological aspects , health and predictive modeling, in particular to define areas at risk under different assumptions of future climate change . The network has been launched by 64 colleagues from 20 different countries, at an international meeting held in Corsica in October 2011. Since then, the network has been extended to 85 colleagues from 26 countries, bringing together the majority of the scientists working on these insects in Southern Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor.

PCLIM activity was carried out around three axes:

  • Preparation of a synthesis book updating all the available knowledge about processionary moths (natural history, ecology, genetics and phylogeography, range expansion with warming, impacts on forestry, biodiversity, and human and animal health, predictive modeling of expansion in relation to IPCC climate scenarios, and management methods adapted to this expansion). Involving more than 50 authors in the network, the manuscript of this work has been completed. The book will be published in summer 2014 by QUAE/ Springer Publishing in paper form (ca. 400 pages) and electronics.
  • Mapping of the northern front of pine processionary expansion across Europe, from Britanny to Bulgaria, on a 16x16 km grid mesh. This map has been completed, and specifies the recently invaded areas with climate change. It thus constitutes a standard baseline for measuring the pace of future expansion, and assessing whether the adaptive processes are identical in Western and Eastern Europe (Balkans and Asia Minor). A similar approach is then planned for the Maghreb to look at a possible southern retraction of the range.
  • Publications of "Newsletters ", presenting news about the developing research projects, the PhD theses, the published papers (both in ISI and national journals whose access may be difficult) about processionary moths.

Another international conference is scheduled for autumn 2014.

Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology