The geographical dimension of biological invasions in the Anthropocene: the case of Xylella fastidiosa

The geographical dimension of biological invasions in the Anthropocene: the case of Xylella fastidiosa

2019/19/03 - The results of a research led by Oliver Gutiérrez, professor and researcher at the Department of Geography of the University of Málaga (UMA), and Luis V. García, senior scientist at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), includes the first global potential distribution map of the Xylella fastidiosa and the first model of integrated exposure (suitability and dispersion) of this bacterium that causes decay and death in numerous species of woody crops, such as the olive tree.

This research, entitled "The geographical dimension of biological invasions in the Anthropocene: the case of Xylella fastidiosa", has been published in number 80 of the journal Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles and responds -in a double context: global and regional (Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands)- to the questions: How far can the global potential distribution of Xylella fastidiosa reach? and Which areas would be more exposed to Xylella fastidiosa if we consider, in addition, the factors or drivers that favor the propagation of this phytopathogenic bacterium?

According to the information provided by this university, until now the models of distribution on the Xylella fastidiosa had been developed starting from registers of presence located in very specific regional contexts, reason why most of the existing potential distribution maps did not do more than represent (extrapolate) a part of reality.

However, in this research, the global potential distribution map of Xylella fastidiosa is constructed with the broadest set of records of the presence of the bacteria, that is, integrating the positive cases detected throughout the world under field conditions, and developing an assembly of global potential distribution models, based on advanced statistical methods that relate presence records and bioclimatic factors. In this sense, the authors revealed a broad bioclimatic potential for expansion in temperate climates.

To answer the second question, the researchers developed a hybrid workflow in which they combined the results of the global model and multicriteria evaluation techniques applied in a regional context (Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands), to jointly estimate the bioclimatic suitability and the drivers that can regionally condition the exposure (suitability, entry and dispersion) of the pathogen in the main agrosystems and ecosystems of the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands.

According to the model, the areas most exposed to the entry and dispersion of the pathogen would be the interior spaces close to the coast in which agricultural activities predominate, support intermediate population densities and are well communicated. Thus, according to the researchers, the Iberian Peninsula is an area very exposed to the dispersion of Xylella fastidiosa.

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