In the late 1970s and early 1980s the group of closely-related woody plant species and hybrids known as Prosopis were seen as a ‘saviour’ for millions of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in East Africa whose very livelihoods were threatened by the degradation of dryland ecosystems spurred on by overgrazing, and by deforestation and a shortage of firewood.
Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a non-native annual plant that was introduced into parts of Europe during the mid-nineteenth century as an ornamental plant for parks and gardens.
This plant species was first recognised as an invasive species and a threat to ecological stability in the 1930’s. However, since then the problem has escalated and is now of international concern, due to its negative impact on ecosystem biodiversity. This is primarily due to its ability to out-compete and overcrowd native vegetation. Himalayan balsam has now naturalised in many countries, resulting in a shift in management strategies from attempting to remove the invasive plant, to limiting its territory and further spread.
The poisonous Parthenium hysterophorus plant is one of the world’s most destructive invasive plant species, threatening biodiversity, food security and human health across numerous countries. The herb is native to Central and South America but has spread to over 40 countries over recent decades including Australia, India, Ethiopia, Swaziland and South Africa.
It was back in the early 1990s, on my first field trip to Assam in North-east India, with invasion ecologist Dr. Sean T. Murphy, when I first encountered mikania growing as an invasive weed. Until then, I had only seen this vine in its Central and South American native range, where locating a population of the plant could sometimes take all day.
Research is currently underway to study new ways of encapsulating and applying entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) to better combat the invasive and destructive fall armyworm in Africa.
PhD student Patrick Fallet is investigating the possibility of a novel biocontrol approach which will attract the armyworm caterpillars to beads containing biocontrol agents such as the insect-killing EPN.
Alan Gange, Amanda Currie & Nadia Ab Razak (Royal Holloway, University of London), Carol Ellison, Norbert Maczey & Suzy Wood (CABI ) and Robert Jackson & Mojgan Rabiey (University of Reading) discuss the threat of invasive species to biodiversity, including the biological control of Himalayan balsam
Invasive species are one of the main threats to biodiversity across the world, being second only to habitat destruction in causing biodiversity decline. In the UK, they cost the economy £1.7 billion annually, through costs of control, losses to agriculture and damage to infrastructure.
Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, CABI’s Executive Director Global Operations, has unveiled a prototype Biopesticides Portal that facilitates the identification, sourcing and application of more environmentally-friendly, cost-effective and sustainable biological control products in the global fights against agricultural pests and diseases.
The CABI-led project was highlighted this week (20 March 2018) at the Biocontrol Africa conference in Nairobi, Kenya, as part of a presentation co-authored by Dr Steve Edgington, Dr Melanie Bateman and Dr Emma Jenner.