Pakistan’s papaya pest squished through biocontrol

Papaya farmers

Copyright: G.M.B. Akash / Pano

 

A severe infestation of the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) nearly wiped out papaya orchards in Pakistan before this largely farming South Asian country decided to replace conventional chemical pesticides that were ineffective, with natural predators that proved to be successful.  Read more of this post

Alien hunters in Indonesia – protecting natural parks and forest ecosystems in SE Asia

The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) posted four blogs about CABI’s activities in its ‘Partner Spotlight’ feature. One of these was on a four-year Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project that we led which ended recently. The FORIS project was about preserving important genetic diversity in some of SE Asia’s forests. The blog is re-posted here.

capture

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Invasive species – telling the story of the hidden threat to livelihoods

invasives-brochure

The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) has blogged about CABI’s activities in its ‘Partner Spotlight’ feature (12-15). One of these was our new invasive species programme which is re-posted here.

Millions of people living in rural communities around the world face problems with invasive species –animals, diseases, insects and plants – that are out of control and have resulted in damage costing more than an estimated US $1.4 trillion globally (Pimentel et al 2001). Yet, while we may have heard about the threats of losing biodiversity, some may have never considered how the addition of a species could be a detriment to agriculture and farmers. Read more of this post

CABI at EcoSummit 2016

EcoSummit 2a

CABI promoted its new invasive species initiative at this year’s EcoSummit event which took place in Montpellier, France, from 29 August – 1 September. CABI’s latest initiative aims to tackle the issue of invasive species to improve the lives of 50 million farmers in Africa and Asia.

Launched in Copenhagen in 1996, the event provides a platform for ecological scientists and researchers from around the world to share new knowledge and discuss sustainable solutions to global environmental and ecological challenges. This year’s EcoSummit conference focused on terrestrial ecosystems, especially fragile systems that are less resilient to climate change and the impact that human activities are having on the environment – especially agriculture. The increasing global demand for food was also discussed and how intensified agriculture to meet this demand can adversely affect ecosystems.

CABI’s work on invasive species was highly relevant here as many invasive species cause the loss of natural biodiversity and alter global ecosystems. CABI’s expertise in tackling invasive species in order to promote environmental sustainability, livelihoods and food security is a significant contribution to solving global environmental challenges.

Julien Lamontagne-Godwin was one of CABI’s representatives at the conference. He said: “This conference is vital to showcase the myriad avenues of research in ecology, and is a vital tool to describe and remind us of the importance of a healthy ecosystem for our way of life. Many discussions we had with top scientists here highlighted the value of CABI’s knowledge platforms, such as our Invasive Species Compendium. These conversations also helped us add depth and significance to our new livelihoods initiative on invasive species.”

CABI has been working on invasive species for over 100 years, exploring measures to prevent, mitigate and manage invasive species on a global level. Through a selection of different sustainable techniques such as biological control, CABI tackles some of the worst invasive species that negatively impact terrestrial ecosystems and impact the livelihoods of farmers who depend directly on the ecosystem for their sustenance.

New European Union IAS Regulation

 

Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

Floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides): on the EU species of Union concern list and a target for biocontrol (Credit: Kate Constantine, CABI)

Invasive alien species are a major threat worldwide, impacting upon millions of livelihoods and threatening biodiversity. The situation is worsening, due in no small part to increased global trade and transport. The economic costs of IAS can be vast: worldwide, invasive species are estimated to cost US$1.4 trillion per year – close to 5% of global GDP.

In the European Union alone, invasive alien species (IAS) are estimated to cost €12-20 billion a year.

In response to this threat, the European Union adopted Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014 which makes compulsory the management of key IAS that are of concern to the region. Methods include limitation of spread, eradication of early invasions and active management of established IAS. A list of 37 species to be included under the regulation was approved by EU Member States in December 2015 and has recently come into force (Regulation (EU) 2016/1141). It includes 23 animals and 14 plants whose current and potential impacts across the region will mean that collaborative and concerted action is required across the EU.

This is part of the EU’s biodiversity strategy which aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020 and is in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Targets, particularly Target 9:

“By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.”

At CABI, we have been working on invasive species at a global scale for decades and are experts in their management using both traditional methods and through biological control. This new legislation is welcome; recognising the serious threats that invasive species pose and imposing compulsory measures to lessen the spread and impacts of IAS in the EU.

Invasive species: A global threat to trade and livelihoods

29Nairobi-Market

Copyright: CABI. Credit: Sven Torfinn, Panos Pictures

 

A new report supports the fact that invasive species have the potential to undermine global food security and sustainable development, a vital statement supported by Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals which states that we need to: introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.

Invasive species are a plants, fungi or animals that are not native to a specific location (an introduced species) which spread and can cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. If not managed sustainably, these invasive species often negatively impact natural biodiversity and ecosystems, and consequently, farmers’ livelihoods.

Rapid globalization and increased trade is compounding this problem. As agricultural and non-agricultural products move from one country to another, the risk of introducing invasive species to non-native regions is also increased.

Research carried out by Dean Paini (senior research scientist – CSIRO) on the Global threat to agriculture from invasive species was carried out across 124 countries. He found that 40 of the countries in the study had the possibility of being invaded by at least one of the 1,297 invasive pests reviewed. The research identified a correlation between the type of crops grown in a country, the level of trade with other countries and invasive pests present in trading countries. He reported that China and USA were the greatest potential sources of invasives species due to the scale of their agricultural production and high levels of trade with other countries.

The report found that countries in sub-Saharan Africa were more vulnerable to the impacts of invasive species. This is because of their less resilient farming systems and increased reliance on the natural ecosystem. Impacts of invasive species are mostly experienced by rural farmers but it’s also felt at the national economic level as agriculture contributes significantly to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is therefore pertinent to understand the source, nature and method of spread of invasive species so that they can be prevented, mitigated or managed – if they’re already established.

We at CABI have launched a global initiative to raise awareness of the global threat of invasive species on food security, trade, sustainable development and rural livelihoods – see our dedicated website. CABI has over 100 years of scientific expertise and knowledge on invasive species and we are using this knowledge to help tackle the worst invasive species across Africa, Asia and Latin America. For instance, Opuntia stricta – an invasive cactus – has colonized vast grazing areas in Kenya, resulting in minimized grazing land and the death of livestock. We have therefore used our scientific expertise to help address this invasive by introducing a sap-sucking bug (Dactylopius opuntiae) which is known to feed only on Opuntia stricta without causing harm to any other native plant species. This bug has previously been successful in controlling Opuntia stricta in South Africa and has already started being effective in addressing the same issues in Kenya.

As sustainable agriculture and rural development is at the core of our work, we aim to tackle invasive species by improving the knowledge of local people on the different methods of preventing the arrival and spread of invasive species. We also want to support agencies responsible for early detection and eradication of invasive species as well as mitigate invasive species through sustainable measures. This will ensure that invasive species are addressed without causing further harm to the environment and livelihoods.

Malaria incidence and invasive plants – is there a link?

Mosquito

3.2 billion people are still at risk of getting malaria. Although progress has been made, if we are to achieve a 90% reduction in global malaria incidence and mortality by 2030 we must do more. Controlling invasive species may be part of the solution.

The path will not be easy. Mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides – the front line of defence from malaria today. But there are other aspects we can consider, like the potential link between the incidence of malaria and invasive, non-native weeds.

It is widely known that mosquitoes need plant sugars, among other things, to survive and proliferate. Studies in Israel show that mosquitoes are much more likely (250 times more likely) to transmit malaria in areas rich in plant sugars. Could the improved management of invasive plants abundant on the African continent lead to a reduction in the incidence of malaria?

It is this question that brought together experts on malaria and plant invasions to a workshop in Kenya in December 2015, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The broad objective of the workshop was to explore whether mosquitoes benefit from invasive plants and whether these plants have a positive influence on the rate of malaria transmission. The workshop also looked at whether invasive plants could be managed on a large scale.

Experts agreed that access to particular plant sugars increases the ability of Anopheles mosquitoes to transmit malaria. Although it is not known if invasive plants produce more sugars, they are more widespread and abundant than native plant species. In fact, many have the ability to invade semi-arid and arid areas, possibly increasing the prevalence of malaria in regions where mosquitoes could not survive in the past. Invasive plants also actively grow and produce flowers and fruit for longer periods than native plants, thereby extending the availability of plant sugars over longer periods than in the past. This may allow mosquitoes to retain high population numbers for much longer periods in invaded areas than in areas where there are no suitable invasive plants.

If there is an obvious link between invasive or weedy plants and Anopheles mosquitoes, can we significantly reduce the incidence of malaria by managing invasive plants?

There is no doubt that problematic plants can be controlled. Landowners, especially farmers, do it all time. The Government of South Africa allocates approximately US$120 million a year to control invasive plants, especially in water catchments, biodiversity hotspots and protected areas. It also invests in biological or natural control of invasive species. This is considered one of the most cost-effective management options, ideal for use in developing countries that do not necessarily have the resources for chemical or conventional control.

So, we can control weeds but would it reduce the incidence of malaria?

Lowering the abundance and density of any plant species favoured by Anopheles mosquitoes should lower malaria incidence. Managing many of these non-native weeds will also result in a multitude of other benefits for poor rural communities – like protecting farmland, for example.

This possible malaria-invasives linkage must be explored further. We need to do more research to fill in knowledge gaps. This includes looking at what plant species the Anopheles mosquitoes use within a given environment. Methodologies are being developed to see if rapid assessments of mosquito gut contents can provide information on what plant species they have been feeding on. We also need to look at the impact of removing certain species of invasive plants on mosquitoes. If we can compare mosquito abundance, longevity and ability to transmit malaria in areas where the invasive plant is dominant and where it is less dominant, we can build a fuller picture of the potential problem and solution.

Malaria is a terrible disease that still affects too many people. We must do all we can to understand the possible link between the incidence of malaria and invasive, non-native weeds. If a link can be found, management of invasive weeds could offer hope to many living under the threat of malaria.

By Dr Arne Witt, Coordinator, Invasive Species, CABI

For more information about CABI’s work managing invasive species, click here.