Mechanistic models can be particularly useful for prediction under novel circumstances. Using the observed trajectory of a grasshopper in flight, extrapolation by a correlative model makes an unrealistic prediction of the grasshopper’s future position. Building the laws of motion into a mechanistic model, such as gravity and air resistance, improves the prediction and applies anywhere these physical rules operate, e.g. on a novel planet. Likewise, building in known biological processes into mechanistic models will improve predictions of species’ responses to novel climatic circumstances.

Mechanistic models for predicting insect responses to climate change


Mechanistic models of the impacts of climate change on insects can be seen as very specific hypotheses about the connections between microclimate, ecophysiology and vital rates. These models must adequately capture stage-specific responses, carry-over effects between successive stages, and the evolutionary potential of the functional traits involved in complex insect life-cycles. Here we highlight key considerations for current approaches to mechanistic modelling of insect responses to climate change. We illustrate these considerations within a general mechanistic framework incorporating the thermodynamic linkages between microclimate and heat, water and nutrient exchange throughout the life-cycle under different climate scenarios. We emphasize how such a holistic perspective will provide increasingly robust insights into how insects adapt and respond to changing climates.

In Current Opinions in Insect Science

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