Potential Slug Invasions and their Impact on UK Biosecurity (Part 2)

By Dr Jenna Ross

Guest writer, Dr Jenna Ross, from Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), joins us for the second of her two-part special series (read part 1) on the outputs of her prestigious Nuffield Farming Scholarship. Jenna spent 26 weeks travelling the world studying all aspects of slug invasions and slug control, and in this article discuss the impact of slug invasions on UK biosecurity.

Molluscs (slugs and snails) are a significant risk to biosecurity worldwide due to their:

DrJennaRoss
Figure 1: Dr Jenna Ross
  • Varied diet, thus can be herbivores, predators, scavengers or omnivores;
  • Ability to carry parasites and pathogens, including some that impact on human and animal health;
  • Survival in disturbed environments, especially when they are in close association with human activity;
  • Rapid reproduction, laying hundreds of eggs over a short period of time;
  • Reproduction strategy, in that they can self-fertilise, thus having the ability to survive without a mate, and establish a population with a single invader; and
  • Ability to aestivate and emerge when weather conditions are more favourable.

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New research assesses the effect of invasive crayfish on mosquito survival

red swamp crayfish
American Red Swamp Crayfish; Photo Credit © Shutter stock

Red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), often known as the Louisiana crawfish are staple part of Cajun cuisine. However, new research published in Conservation Biology has found that the highly invasive crayfish allows mosquitoes to thrive in waterways, therefore making it more likely to increase the risk of mosquito-borne diseases.  Continue reading

Invasive Species Are Riding on Plastic Across the Oceans

Reblogged from National Geographic

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Pelagic gooseneck barnacles hang like ropes off a plastic basin that washed onto the beaches of San Francisco in 2014. The basin was one of many pieces of debris that crossed the Pacific after the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Photograph by Gail Ashton and Katherine Newcomer, Smithsonian

We know plastics are as plentiful in parts of the open ocean as they are in our everyday lives. But, until recently, scientists didn’t consider that such debris could also be carrying a new wave of invasive species to the shores of the United States. Now they’re finding that not only is that happening, but they suspect that some of the species will thrive.

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Using DNA to detect a stinkbug invasion

Stinkbug
Brown marmorated Stinkbug nymph, Image by Photochem_PA

The use of DNA to detect a stinkbug invasion proposes a revolutionary advancement in agricultural pest surveillance following the success recorded on a piloted experiment conducted on farms in the USA. These interlopers attack all manner of produce, ranging from fruits to leafy vegetables.  However, the adoption of DNA techniques in detecting its early invasion may help to bring its assault to a halt, as opposed to the use of pheromone traps which may only be effective after the pest’s population are pronounced.

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Invasive species catch a wave

Over two years have now passed since the Tohoku earthquake rent the seafloor 40 miles off the coast of Japan. The 9.03 magnitude quake – the largest in Japan’s history – triggered a staggeringly destructive tsunami which cost the lives of over 15,000 people.

Aside from the human tragedy of the disaster, the tsunami has had another, quite unexpected, effect: the transport of invasive species across the globe.  Plants and animals from the north-west Pacific are now washing up over 8000 miles away on North American beaches, sparking fears that a wave of ecological invasions could be threatening coastal environments the length of the continent.

How have these organisms managed to travel so far? Such was the force of the tsunami as it tore into docks, boats and buildings on the Japanese coast that an estimated 1.5 million tons of debris was washed out to sea. This was not just the usual plastic waste that pollutes the Pacific Ocean; individual blocks of steel and concrete weighing over 100 tons have been sighted drifting off the coast of Hawaii and North America. Flotsam this large provides a substrate for sedentary coastal life and can shield species from the worst of oceanic conditions. Individual species regularly make similar transits attached to the hulls of boats.

However, what has surprised ecologists in this instance is the number of species that are washing up after 15 months adrift. Whilst whole communities are not turning up on American shores – larger and more mobile animals in particular have long since been washed away – species are certainly arriving en masse in North America. For example, a pier from Misawa port in Japan was harbouring over 100 species when it beached in Oregon in June 2012.

A 66' long concrete dock in Oregon USA, debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan
A pier from Misawa port, covered in non-native kelp, that washed up in Oregon in June 2012.
Source: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

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