Originally posted on The Plantwise Blog:

The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)

The whitefly Bemisia tabaci (USDA image PD USDA ARS via Wikimedia Commons)

A species of whitefly that transmits cassava mosaic virus has been detected in South Africa for the first time. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species complex containing some important agricultural pests and virus vectors. The term ‘cryptic species complex’ means that Bemisia tabaci is considered to be a complex of at least 24 different species that look almost identical but are in fact genetically different.  Researchers from a range of organisations including the University of Johannesburg, the University of Witwatersrand and ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute conducted surveys to investigate the diversity and distribution of Bemisia tabaci species in 8 provinces in South Africa. The study aimed to update the information regarding the different Bemisia tabaci types present in the country.

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Rhododendron ponticum – much more than just an invasive weed!

Rhododendron ponticum, native to southern Europe and south west Asia was introduced into the UK in the 18th Century. Since then, this plant has grown uncontrollably and is now a common sight throughout western parts of the British Isles in areas such as Cornwall, Wales and parts of Scotland and Ireland. Despite producing an attractive flower in the spring, Rhododendron can have damaging effects on the local environment. By growing rapidly this plant outcompetes native flora, decreases biodiversity and furthermore constitutes a sporulating host for the two devastating pathogens Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae, meaning these pathogens not only infect but also reproduce on R. ponticum.

Rhododenron ponticum

A stand of invasive Rhododendron ponticum in Windsor Great Park (Picture copyright CABI).

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Originally posted on The Plantwise Blog:

Diamond shaped lesions characteristic of Ash Dieback Disease, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea. Image courtesy of The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright.

Researchers are working towards developing a cost effective solution to controlling  Ash Dieback fungal disease, a major threat to 80 million ash trees in the UK. As part of the plan to tackle Ash Dieback and other invasive pests and diseases, the government has formulated a team of ten internationally recognised experts in plant health, forestry and wider related disciplines as part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce. The taskforce includes three entomologists, Professor Charles Godfray from Oxford University, Professor Simon Leather from Harper Adams University College and Professor John Mumford from Imperial College as well as a number of social and environmental scientists.

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Branson pickle

Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur, is reported to have applied for permits to introduce a colony of endangered lemurs to his British Virgin Islands (BVI), Mosquito and Necker. Having “rescued” the island of Mosquito from purchase by a hotel chain in 2007, his intention was to turn his £10 million Caribbean tax haven into an ecological showcase, a luxury hideaway for the mega rich, with plans for Balinese-style, carbon neutral villas whilst “cultivating and supporting the biodiversity, then introducing habitats (such as rainforests) for people who will live in symbiotic form”.

The fanciful whimsy of the rich and famous is nothing new, however this controversial proposal has hit the headlines in BVI because it would appear that Branson has been granted import permits by the Natural Resources and Labour Minister, Hon. Omar Hodge, against the recommendations of technical groups in the Agriculture and Conservation sectors and in contravention of Territory laws. The decision is being contested by the Ninth district elections contender, Lorie Rymer and a petition is reported to be in circulation and will later be submitted to the Governor Boyd McClearly, who is appointed by the Queen and exercises executive authority on her behalf. Meanwhile, Minister Hodge is standing firm but has apparently alienated members of the community by stating on local radio that he “doesn’t have to answer to anyone because he is the Minister”.

(Ring-tailed lemurs by Woodlouse, Flickr Creative Commons)

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The economic impact of invasive species on Great Britain revealed

A report, written by CABI for the Scottish government, Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government, estimates the cost of invasive non-native species to Great Britain in unprecedented detail. Invasive non-native species can have wide-ranging effects on biodiversity, crop production and people’s livelihoods. A better understanding of the negative impacts of invasive species will help to make people aware of invasive non-native species, to prevent new introductions and to deal with the problems caused by established invasive species.

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Could invasive species signal the end for native crayfish?

As one of Europe’s five native crayfish species, the white clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) has suffered a huge decline in numbers in the last couple of decades. This docile crustacean is usually found hiding under rocks in streams, rivers and lakes, only emerging at night to avoid predators. A fortnight ago it’s IUCN status was upgraded from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ on the Red List of Threatened Species, with experts predicting it could be extinct within 30 years. It has recently been documented that 50 to 80% of the populations in England, Italy and France have disappeared in the last 10 years. What could be causing such a devastating loss in the U.K.?

NNSS_Pacifastacus leniusculus


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Latest GISP publications on invasive species

The Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) has recently published two publications on invasive species, Mainstreaming Gender into Prevention and Management of Invasive Species, and Invasive Species, Climate Change and Ecosystem-Based Adaption: Addressing Multiple Drivers of Global Change, both of which deserve a read. Both publications can be downloaded via the GISP website

GISPgender Climatechange&IAS

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Are we fuelling future invasions?

The world is fast running out of fossil fuels and with an energy crisis looming, intensive research is being carried out across the globe to find renewable alternatives. Top of the list are biofuels; fuels derived from biomass. Will the plants grown to provide this biomass behave themselves when introduced to sites outside their native range, or escape cultivation and invade the regions to which they are introduced?

Arundo donaxGiant reed, Arundo donax (credited to Steve Loya and sourced from the Lompoc Record)

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Natural Born Killers

Last month anglers at Grafham Water reservoir in Cambridgeshire, UK spotted the invasive killer shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus. The first sighting of this ferocious little beast in the UK has instigated the GB Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) to issue a species alert as part of the GB rapid response protocol in an attempt to contain and monitor its spread.

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The Killer Shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus (Picture courtesy of Michal Grabowski)

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Public perception and knotweed biocontrol

In 2010, we commenced with a controlled release of the specialist Japanese knotweed natural enemy,Aphalara itadori, in the UK.  This has been the culmination of many years of project development and intense research and is effectively a first for Europe, at least as far as weeds are concerned.

RT.25.4.05.japanese.knotweed.high.wycombe.concrete.
Japanese knotweed pushing through tarmac in Buckinghamshire (CABI)

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