Traded forest tree seeds pose a great risk of introducing harmful pest, new research shows

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American acorn (Quercus garryana) with fungus on the inside of the skin and feeding damage by weevil larvae (Photo: ©CABI/Iva Franić)

CABI has led an international team of scientists who strongly suggest that the global trade of forest tree seeds is not as safe as previously believed, with insect pests and fungal pathogens posing a great risk to trees and forest ecosystems worldwide.

Non-native insect pests and fungal pathogens present one of the major threats to trees and forest ecosystems globally, with the potential to cause significant ecological changes and economic losses.

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New study reveals the massive ecological and economic impacts of woody weed invasion in Ethiopia

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A Prosopis clearing along the Awash river

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.

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Invasives killed the biodiversity star

george the snail
George, a Hawaiian tree snail and the last known member of the species Achatinella apexfulva. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino, Honolulu Magazine.

The start of 2019 brought sad news when George, the last tree snail of his kind (Achatinella apexfulva) died on New Years Day. His death highlights the plight of Hawaiian snails and epitomises the rapid decline of biodiversity on the Hawaiian Islands.

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The twelve pests of Christmas (trees)

For many, December means celebrating Christmas and a central part of that is a Christmas tree. Evergreen trees have been used in celebration for centuries. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews used evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life. Pagans worshiped trees, and Romans used evergreen wreaths during the festival of Saturnalia.

The trees commonly used as Christmas decorations come from the genus Picea which is made up of around 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the family Picaceae. Popular Christmas tree species include Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, and Norway Spruce.

The modern-day Christmas tree is thought to have started in 16th century Germany when Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. The Christmas traditions we know today were shaped by the Victorians, when the first Christmas tree was brought from Germany to the British royal household by Prince Albert in the 1840s. These days, around 7 million real trees are sold each year in the UK, and as many as 30 million in the USA.

But with real trees come real creatures…

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Protecting Carnaúba Palm Trees in Brazil from Devil’s Claw

Carnauba palms and Devils claw vine
Carnaúba palms covered by Devil’s claw vine

Called the “White Forest” by native populations, the Caatinga ecosystem covers an estimated 11% of Brazil and is spread across the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, northern Minas Gerais, Maranhão Paraíba, Piau, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe. This dry forest is home to the largest populations of Carnaúba palms in the world. It also has some of the world’s most diverse plant life and its biodiversity is critically important to maintaining the variety of animals native to the region, such as the emblematic three-banded armadillo.

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Highlighting forests’ vulnerability to invasive species

After habitat destruction, invasive alien species are the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide. It has a significant impact on livelihoods and the economy, incurring losses of USD$1.4 trillion a year. Prior to 2012 many South-East Asian countries lacked the policies and information on the presence, distribution and impact of invasive species to properly manage this increasingly urgent threat. Continue reading

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.

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