Invasive termites in a changing climate: a global perspective.
Termites are ubiquitous insects in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate regions and play an important role in ecosystems. Several termite species are also significant economic pests, mainly in urban areas where they attack human-made structures, but also in natural forest habitats. Worldwide, approximately 28 termite species are considered invasive and have spread beyond their native ranges, often with significant economic consequences. We used predictive climate modeling to provide the first global risk assessment for 13 of the world's most invasive termites. We modeled the future distribution of 13 of the most serious invasive termite species, using two different Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, and two projection years (2050 and 2070). Our results show that all but one termite species are expected to significantly increase in their global distribution, irrespective of the climatic scenario and year. The range shifts by species (shift vectors) revealed a complex pattern of distributional changes across latitudes rather than simple poleward expansion. Mapping of potential invasion hotspots in 2050 under the RCP 4.5 scenario revealed that the most suitable areas are located in the tropics. Substantial parts of all continents had suitable environmental conditions for more than four species simultaneously. Mapping of changes in the number of species revealed that areas that lose many species (e.g., parts of South America) are those that were previously very species-rich, contrary to regions such as Europe that were overall not among the most important invasion hotspots, but that showed a great increase in the number of potential invaders. The substantial economic and ecological damage caused by invasive termites is likely to increase in response to climate change, increased urbanization, and accelerating economic globalization, acting singly or interactively.