Guest writer, Dr Jenna Ross, from Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), joins us for a two-part special series (read part 2) on the outputs of her prestigious Nuffield Farming Scholarship, where she spent 26 weeks travelling the world studying all aspects of slug invasions and methods of control. In Part 1, Jenna discusses the current slug fauna of the UK and potential slug invasions.
The slug fauna of the UK is constantly evolving. To date, there are an estimated 42 slug species in the UK, with another newly introduced milacid species identified in 2018. However, what is particularly interesting, is that of the species present in the UK, only 18 are native, with the rest being introduced. This means that over 50% of the UK’s slug fauna are exotic. So why are slugs so successful at invading new habitats? There are many reasons for this, including their high reproductive rates, environmental tolerance, flexible behaviour, ability to thrive in association with humans (synanthropic) and the fact they are free from their natural predators and parasites when entering new unoccupied ecological niches.
Scale insects – such as the coffee mealybug and cassava mealybug – are some of the least studied group of invertebrates in East Africa. However, a collaborative effort has been made to address the threat they pose to smallholder farmers: despite their cross-cutting status as pests in all plant groups, crops, ornamentals, trees and weeds.
Several organisations* in Kenya including CABI, and in conjunction with the UK’s Natural History Museum, have joined forces to train up to 30 new extension officers whose role will include identifying scale insects and communicating theirs risks and how they can be managed with smallholder farmers.
Woody plant species have been deliberately introduced into many arid and semi-arid regions across the world as they can help combat desertification and provide resources – like fuelwood – to the rural poor. But some of these alien trees and shrubs have become invasive, having devastating effects on other species as well as people.
This is big problem in the mainly arid Baringo County, in Kenya’s Rift valley as well as other counties north, east and south of the country.
A team of international scientists, including CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, have recommended ways to manage the devastating spread of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora, where in Baringo County, Kenya, its coverage rapidly increased by 2,031 percent in just 28 years.
PhD student Purity Rima Mbaabu, affiliated to the University of Nairobi and co-supervised by Simon Choge, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Dr Sandra Eckert, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland, Profs. Maina Gichaba and Prof. Daniel Olago, University of Nairobi, and Dr Schaffner, is lead author of new research which states that the rates of Prosopis invasion in Kenya are a ‘major threat to the environment and rural people’s livelihoods.’
The study calls for the ‘urgent implementation of coordinated and sustainable Prosopis management in Baringo County and other invaded areas in East Africa’.
This week many people across the world stopped and stared as extreme headlines announced that one eighth of the world’s species – more than a million – are threatened with extinction.
According to the UN report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which brought this situation to public attention, this startling number is a consequence of five direct causes: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasion of alien species.
It’s the last, invasive species, that threatens Australian animals and plants more than any other single factor. Continue reading →
CABI has published a new evidence note highlighting a list of recommendations to fight the highly-invasive parthenium weed which can have significant impacts on human health, the environment, livestock production and health and crop yields.
CABI scientists have revealed the massive ecological and economic impacts that the invasive alien tree Prosopis juliflora has had across the Afar Region of north eastern Ethiopia.
Dr Urs Schaffner, who is supervising lead author Mr Hailu Shiferaw for his PhD studies, contributed to the Science of The Total Environment published research which shows that the devastating Prosopis was a major reason for losses in annual ecosystem service values in Afar Region estimated at US $602 million in just 31 years.