New in July 2015 from the ISC

In July 2015 the following datasheets were published on CABI’s Invasive Species Compendium (ISC). You can explore the open-access ISC here:

July invasivesAkebia quinata (five-leaf akebia) – a highly invasive, aggressive vine native to East Asia, A. quinata has been introduced as an ornamental to Canada, Europe, Oceania and the USA. It can outcompete native understory plants and young trees, and its dense growth can block sunlight and prevent the germination of native plants.

Geophagus brasiliensis (pearl cichlid) – an ornamental freshwater fish native to southeast Brazil, G. brasiliensis has been introduced to Australia, Florida, the Philippines and Taiwan. Its fast growth, opportunistic diet and broad environmental tolerances have allowed it to colonize new waterways, particularly artificial and disturbed habitats.

Rudbeckia laciniata (thimbleweed)R. laciniata is an ornamental perennial plant that has been introduced to China, Japan, New Zealand and Europe. Native to eastern North America, thimbleweed grows best in bright, humid areas, such as wetlands, forest edges and roadsides. By producing lots of seeds and spreading from rhizome fragments, it can form dense monocultures which outcompete native plants.

Other invasive species datasheets recently published include:

Brugmansia suaveolens (white angel’s trumpet)
Chrysemys picta (painted turtle)
Macaranga tanarius (parasol leaf tree)
Paederia foetida (skunkvine)
Umbra pygmaea (eastern mudminnow)

Villagers front-line in the battle against Prosopis in Ethiopia


Prosopis invading a flood channel near Badahamu

Paul Rogers, Business Development Manager at CABI, visits Badahamu to understand how invasive weeds affect their livelihoods

As we arrived in Badahamu, in eastern Ethiopia, negotiating the by-now familiar thickets of Hara Dergi, “Derg weed” as Prosopis is known in the local Afar language, the impact of last autumn’s floods were painfully apparent. We passed rows of half-destroyed and half-built houses and were warned to avoid local water due to the risk of cholera, which is now endemic.

The story of Badahamu is common across southern Afar. One best told in the words of its inhabitants, it is a tale of the usual challenges of drought and flood being complicated by an invasive species, which removes land from productive cultivation and pasture, and challenges the wealth and identity of households and communities.


Food Aid being delivered to Badahamu

The real human impact of this stressed and vulnerable habitat was apparent when we found the group of community members who we had arranged to interview. They had gathered near the village storage barns, where the latest consignment of food aid was being unloaded. A hundred or more villagers were waiting around the trucks, keen to see what was being delivered and what would temporarily alleviate their chronic hunger.

When we started to discuss Hara Dergi the community listed a number of critical indigenous species that are disappearing due to the invasion of three-quarters of their land. These included trees like cassalto (Acacia nilotica), which is used to feed camels, build houses and as a fuelwood, angalita (Cadaba rotundifolia), which goats and camels browse on, and hedayito (Commiphora habessinica) which provides good grazing. When it invades the banks of the Awash river, the region’s lifeblood, it causes silting which obstructs and deviates the flow, increasing the frequency and severity of floods and reducing the community’s ability to manage dry season droughts.


Focus group respondents at Badahamu

There were bitter complaints over the cost of clearance, which places a significant financial burden on households and the community. The fierce thorns of Hara Dergi are causing both lameness and jaw deformity in livestock, and is likened locally to “AIDS for cattle”. It is also reducing income that could be used to fund local measures to control the spread of the weed.

It is not just the animals that suffer from thorn injuries – the local administrator estimated that the thorns had caused over 30 disabilities within the community, a human tragedy worsened by the effect Prosopis has on obstructing access to the local health centre.

Hunger and despair are driving the community to increasingly drastic and destructive measures. The encouragement, and then discouragement, of charcoal production by the government has caused anger and conflict amongst pastoralists who suspect that the few remaining local trees, rather than the intended Hara Dergi, are being used. Then there is the sugar cane plantation.  Positioned adjacent to the community’s lands as a tauntingly green, year-round oasis, over 15 of their members have been imprisoned for illegally grazing their herd around its edges. Despite warnings and sanctions, the scant rewards outweigh these evident risks.

This is the real tragedy. Such is the devastating impact on their livelihoods, and the desperation that this causes, that members of the community are engaging in illegal activities that risk ostracization by officials whose support is crucial in improving their circumstances. Once proud, the community now recognizes that it cannot confront Hara Dergi alone but is coincidentally conscious of the fact that it was introduced not by them, but by foreigners – tempering shame with indignation. Whoever’s ultimate responsibility it is, a solution will only be found through collective action, action which above all must be quick.

New edition of weed biocontrol catalogue gives information on more than 2000 releases

The Plantwise Blog

Himalayan balsam infected with Puccinia rust Himalayan balsam infected with Puccinia rust – a method of biocontrol being used in the UK. Photo credit: Rob Tanner © CABI

The fifth edition of Biological Control of Weeds: A World Catalogue of Agents and Their Target Weeds has been released after years of literature searches and the involvement of 125 weed biocontrol specialists.

The publication of this catalogue, available as a searchable online database and as a PDF book, was led by Mark Schwarzländer, University of Idaho CALS professor of entomology and biological control of weeds (and a former CABI researcher), and current CABI biological weed researcher, Hariet Hinz. Several prominent invasive species researchers co-edited the catalogue, including CABI’s Chief Scientist, Matthew Cock.

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Tuta absoluta, a new invasive invading India

Additional information about Tuta absoluta can be found on the CABI Invasive Species Compendium

The Plantwise Blog

Tuta absoluta (commonly known as tomato leaf miner) is a devastating pest of tomato which originated from South America. It can breed between 10-12 generations a year and each female can lay upto 250-300 eggs in her life time.  This pest has been very quickly crossing borders and devastating tomato production in both protected and open fields. The infestation of this pest is also reported on other solanaceous crops like potato, aubergine and common beans. The pest has spread from South America to several parts of Europe, entire Africa and has now spread to India. This pest is observed for the first time infesting tomato crop in Maharashtra, India reported by Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It has a potential to cause up to 90% loss of yield and fruit quality under greenhouse and field conditions. Plants are damaged by larval stages by direct feeding on leaves, stems, buds, calyces, young fruit, or…

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The Plantwise Blog

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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The Plantwise Blog

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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About the CABI Invasives blog

The CABI Invasives blog is an opportunity for scientists across our centres to highlight their research and debate topical issues in the field of invasive species.  We hope the blog will reflect the diversity of research projects and consultancies CABI scientists are involved in and can be used to spark wider debate in the field of invasives, whist ultimately working towards the reduction in occurrence and impact of invasive species across the globe through awareness raising and dissemination of scientific information and experiences.

CABI and invasive species

CABI is a not-for-profit science-based development and information organization. We improve people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. CABI has been working on sustainable solutions for the management of invasive species for almost 100 years. World-wide we research and implement biological control programmes against invasive plants, animals and microorganisms which cause an adverse detrimental effect in their areas of introduction.  We also study the impact of invasive species on the habitats they invade, advise on invasive species policy and produce books and tools for environmental managers, researchers and farmers.


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