New in May 2015 from the ISC

In May 2015 the following datasheets were published on CABI’s Invasive Species Compendium (ISC). You can explore the open-access ISC here: www.cabi.org/isc

Bubalis

Bubalis bubalis (Asian water buffalo) – domesticated herds of the Asian water buffalo are widely kept across Asia and southern Europe, where they are considered naturalised and not invasive. However, introduced populations in Australia and South America have proved more problematic. B. bubalis competes with cattle in South American grazing land, and has significant negative impacts on rainforests, floodplains and tropical savannahs in northern Australia.

Fibropapillomatosis – thought to be caused by Chelonid herpesvirus 5, fibropapillomatosis is a disease of sea turtles that causes internal and external tumours. Although considered benign, these tumours can hinder swimming, feeding, sight, buoyancy and even breathing, sometimes leading to death. Fibropapillomatosis occurs most commonly in green turtles, but has been reported in six other species, and is now considered a tropical pandemic, with infection rates above 70% in some regions.

Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern) – native to tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Oceania, the old world climbing fern was introduced to the USA as an ornamental in the mid-1900s. It has aggressively invaded forested wetlands, particularly in Florida, where it smothers undergrowth, shrubs and even tall trees – you may recognise L. microphyllum as the rampant invasive in the banner at the top of the ISC homepage.

Other invasive species datasheets recently published include:

Alopecurus myosuroides (black-grass)

Ammophila arenaria (marram grass)

Batis maritima (saltwort)

Conium maculatum (poison hemlock)

Leiothrix lutea (red-billed leiothrix)

Linaria vulgaris (common toadflax)

Pastinaca sativa (parsnip)

Poecilia latipinna (sailfin molly)

Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove)

Salsola paulsenii (barbwire Russian thistle)

Stachytarpheta cayennensis (blue snakeweed)

Vicia villosa (hairy vetch)

Villagers front-line in the battle against Prosopis in Ethiopia

Prosopis1

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.

Prosopis2

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.

Prosopis3

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 in April 2015 from the ISC

In April 2015 the following datasheets were published on CABI’s Invasive Species Compendium (ISC). You can explore the open-access ISC here: www.cabi.org/isc.


May

Triumfetta semitriloba (burweed) – this weedy perennial shrub species, native to large parts of tropical and subtropical America, has been introduced to a number of Pacific islands, where it is now invasive. Its international spread is something of a mystery, though the barbed burs allow local spread via passing animals and people to occur very easily.

Stachys arvensis (staggerweed) – native to parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa, this poisonous herb has been introduced to a range of habitats around the world. S. arvensis has become a serious weed in many places, with negative environmental and economic impacts. It can cause nervous disorders in livestock, especially sheep, causing them to stagger – hence the common name staggerweed.

Solanum mammosum (nipplefruit nightshade) – known by a veritable smorgasbord of colourful names, S. mammosum is an annual or short-lived perennial that has been introduced to Asia, Africa, the Americas and Pacific islands. It is reported invasive in Cuba, the Philippines, Fiji, Tonga and parts of Hawaii.

Other invasive species datasheets recently published include:

Lythrum maritimum (pukamole)

Opuntia engelmannii (cactus apple)

Salvia splendens (scarlet sage)

Solanum erianthum (potato tree)

Solanum rostratum (prickly nightshade)

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

Originally posted on 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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Ebola and IAS

A conversation with Dr Arne Witt

Dr Arne WittThe recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa made headline news around the world. During the outbreak this fatal disease, endemic to parts of Central and West Africa, rapidly spread from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to other countries in the region such as Nigeria, Mali and Senegal and then further afield to the USA, UK and Spain, mainly through infected health workers. This prompted decisive action from governments around the world and led to the implementation of strict controls at most national points of entry – as a result of this action and increased awareness, the further spread of this disease was effectively halted. No new infections have been reported for a number of months now but the cost has been significant – more than 10,000 people lost their lives, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. However, it is highly probable that without significant interventions the costs could have been far higher. For example, the outbreak of bubonic plague or Black Death in Europe in the 17th century resulted in the death of 34 million people. The accidental introduction of potato blight, a crop disease which affects potatoes, from the Americas to Ireland in the mid-1800s contributed to the starvation of about 1 million people. Rinderpest, a disease affecting livestock was accidentally introduced to Africa from Asia in the late 19th century resulting in the deaths of, it is claimed, a third of the human population of what is now Ethiopia and two-thirds of the Maasai, an ethnic group of pastoralists in East Africa who are totally dependent on livestock. We may ask what Ebola, potato blight and rinderpest have in common – well obviously they have all have had a devastating impact on humanity but what binds them all together is that they are all INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES (IAS). Fortunately, due to concerted efforts by a range of agencies rinderpest has been eradicated from the planet but as a result of increased trade, travel and tourism more and more species are being moved around the world and many are establishing and are continuing to have devastating impact on livelihoods. Read more of this post

Tackling Tutsan

Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) is invasive to New Zealand and Australia. Native to many countries throughout Europe and western parts of Asia, it is thought to have been introduced as a garden ornamental by acclimatisation societies in the 1800s due to its attractive yellow flower. Today, tutsan is a severe weed in several regions of New Zealand, most significantly affecting the Ruapehu District and Bay of Plenty region in the North Island. Over the last 20 years, tutsan has become an increasing problem in these regions; spreading throughout low fertility pastures and along roadsides. There is concern that tutsan has the potential to pose a significant conservation threat if it continues to spread at its current rate through scrub and native forest fringes.

Flowering tutsan plants growing in New Zealand (photo: Lizzie Rendell, 2011)

Flowering tutsan plants growing in New Zealand (photo: Lizzie Rendell, 2011)

Recent estimates indicate that around 150,000 ha of land in the Ruapehu district is affected by tutsan. Within the district, the annual cost of controlling the weed, and loss of farming profit amount to around $NZ1.2 million (£600,000), and loss of current land values is estimated at $NZ27 million (£13 million). Tutsan is a persistent weed for which there are no registered chemicals. Off-label herbicides are currently used in an attempt to limit its spread, but these are proving ineffective with stands typically reappearing several years later. The weed is unpalatable to stock and the topography of the region’s worst affected areas further limits the control methods possible. Read more of this post

Beware! Pests on the high seas

Originally posted on The Plantwise Blog:

Contributed by Roger Day, CABI

If you put all the shipping containers in the world end to end, the line would go round the world 5 times. So a problem with a very small proportion of them is still a pretty big problem.

One such problem is that when a container is being packed with cargo, pests can get in and hitch a free ride to another country. So in 2008, the 3rd Session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM3) directed an expert working group to start developing an international standard for “Minimizing pest movement by sea containers”.

When a sea container is being packed with cargo, pests can get in and hitch a free ride to another country which can create considerable problems. When a sea container is being packed with cargo, pests can get in and hitch a free ride to another country, creating considerable problems. Photo: http://www.europhoning.fr

CPM 5 (2010) directed that work on the topic was urgent, and a draft standard was produced, but at CPM7, after lengthy discussions late…

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