Godefroid, Martin; Morente, Marina; Schartel, Tyler; Cornara, Daniele; Purcell, Alexander; Gallego, Diego; Pereira, Jose; Fereres, Alberto.
July 17, 2020
The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xf) is a worldwide distributed invasive insect-borne plant pathogen, which causes lethal diseases to many economically-important crops including olives, citrus, almonds and grapes as well as numerous forest, ornamental, and uncultivated plants. The Mediterranean basin is the top supplier of olive oil with 93% of the world production and is consequently highly concerned about the recent invasion of Xf in Europe. Recently, bioeconomic models estimated putative losses induced by the spread of Xf across the European olive-producing area ranging from 1.9 to 5.2 billion euros over 50 years; however, such models did not take into account the insect vectors, which constitute a key driver of Xf spread. In the present study, we used bioclimatic species distribution models to predict the current and future climate suitability of the Mediterranean area for the main efficient or putative transmitters of Xf to olive (i.e. Philaenus spumarius, Neophilaenus campestris and Aphrophora alni). An important part of the total extent of the Mediterranean olive-producing area, mainly situated in southern Spain, Turkey and Greece, is predicted as currently poorly suitable for these vector species. Moreover, models forecast that nearly the totality of the Mediterranean olive-producing regions will likely become climatically little suitable for these vectors by 2050 due to climate change. In Europe, Xf outbreaks have occurred so far only in localities predicted as climatically suitable for these main vector species (e.g. the Apulia region of Italy) while the areas predicted as poorly suitable are still apparently Xf-free, which suggests that climate tolerances of vectors might play a main role in shaping Xf outbreaks patterns. This pattern highlights the crucial necessity of accounting for vectors when assessing risk of Xf outbreaks, and when considering vector-borne diseases in general. The risk maps presented here will have important practical application for the optimization of current and future strategies to control Xf in the Mediterranean region.