iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Performances of an expanding insect under elevated CO2 and snow cover in the Alps

Edoardo Petrucco-Toffolo   , Andrea Battisti

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 1, Issue 4, Pages 126-131 (2008)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0466-0010126
Published: Aug 27, 2008 - Copyright © 2008 SISEF

Research Articles

Variations of phenology and distribution have been recently highlighted in numerous insect species and attributed to climate change, particularly the increase of temperature and atmospheric CO2. Both have been shown to have direct and indirect effects on insect species of various ecosystems, though the responses are often species-specific. The pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa (Lepidoptera, Notodontidae) is an important pest of conifers in the Mediterranean region, and has been recently shown to expand its altitudinal range in the Alps, including the mountain pine Pinus mugo as a novel host. We had the opportunity to transplant colonies of the pine processionary moth to a high elevation site well outside of the current range of the insect (Stillberg, Davos, Switzerland, 2180 m), where trees of the mountain pine have been grown for five years under ambient and elevated CO2 concentrations (ca. 570 ppm). The aim of the study was to evaluate the response of first instar larvae to extreme conditions of temperature and to an altered performance induced by the change of host metabolism under elevated CO2. Larval mortality and relative growth rate did not differ between host trees grown in ambient or elevated CO2. As extended snow cover may be an important mortality factor of larval colonies on the dwarf trees of mountain pine, we tested the survival of colonies transplanted at two extreme sites of Eastern Alps. The snow cover extended over more than one month proved to be an important mortality factor of larval colonies on mountain pine. We concluded that the first instar larvae of the pine processionary moth are not concerned by unusually low temperature and CO2 increase whereas they can be later strongly affected by snow accumulation. The decrease of snow cover observed in the last decades, however, may reduce such a risk.


Climate change, Thaumetopoea pityocampa, Range expansion, Pinus

Authors’ address

Edoardo Petrucco-Toffolo
Andrea Battisti
Department of Environmental Agronomy - Entomology, University of Padova, v. Università 16a, I-35020 Legnaro, PD (Italy)

Corresponding author

Edoardo Petrucco-Toffolo


Petrucco-Toffolo E, Battisti A (2008). Performances of an expanding insect under elevated CO2 and snow cover in the Alps. iForest 1: 126-131. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0466-0010126

Paper history

Received: Apr 22, 2008
Accepted: Jul 21, 2008

First online: Aug 27, 2008
Publication Date: Aug 27, 2008
Publication Time: 1.23 months

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