Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 8

Invasive Species Related Abstracts

8 The Role of Non-Native Plant Species in Enhancing Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

Authors: Thabiso Michael Mokotjomela, Jasper Knight


Intensification of agricultural food production in sub-Saharan Africa is of paramount importance as a means of increasing the food security of communities that are already experiencing a range of environmental and socio-economic stresses. However, achieving this aim faces several challenges including ongoing climate change, increased resistance of diseases and pests, extreme environmental degradation partly due to biological invasions, land tenure and management practices, socio-economic developments of rural populations, and national population growth. In particular, non-native plant species tend to display greater adaptation capacity to environmental stress than native species that form important food resource base for human beings, thus suggesting a potential for usage to shift accordingly. Based on review of the historical benefits of non-native plant species in food production in sub-Saharan Africa, we propose that use of non-invasive, non-native plant species and/or the genetic modification of native species might be viable options for future agricultural sustainability in this region. Coupled with strategic foresight planning (e.g. use of biological control agents that suppress plant species’ invasions), the consumptive use of already-introduced non-native species might help in containment and control of possible negative environmental impacts of non-native species on native species, ecosystems and biodiversity, and soil fertility and hydrology. Use of non-native species in food production should be accompanied by low cost agroecology practices (e.g. conservation agriculture and agrobiodiversity) that may promote the gradual recovery of natural capital, ecosystem services, and promote conservation of the natural environment as well as enhance food security.

Keywords: Food Security, Agroecology, Invasive Species, Agrobiodiversity, socio-economic stresses

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7 Cryptic Diversity: Identifying Two Morphologically Similar Species of Invasive Apple Snails in Peninsular Malaysia

Authors: Suganiya Rama Rao, Yoon-Yen Yow, Thor-Seng Liew, Shyamala Ratnayeke


Invasive snails in the genus Pomacea have spread across Southeast Asia including Peninsular Malaysia. Apart from significant economic costs to wetland crops, very little is known about the snails’ effects on native species, and wetland function through their alteration of macrophyte communities. This study was conducted to establish diagnostic characteristics of Pomacea species in the Malaysian environment using genetic and morphological criteria. Snails were collected from eight localities in northern and central regions of Peninsular Malaysia. The mitochondrial COI gene of 52 adult snails was amplified and sequenced. Maximum likelihood analysis was used to analyse species identity and assess phylogenetic relationships among snails from different geographic locations. Shells of the two species were compared using geometric morphometric analysis and covariance analyses. Shell height accounted for most of the observed variation between P. canaliculata and P. maculata, with the latter possessing a smaller mean ratio of shell height: aperture height (p < 0.0001) and shell height to shell width (give p < 0.0001). Genomic and phylogenetic analysis demonstrated the presence of two monophyletic taxa, P. canaliculata and P. maculata, in Peninsular Malaysia samples. P. maculata co-occurred with P. canaliculata in 5 localities, but samples from 3 localities contained only P. canaliculata. This study is the first to confirm the presence of two of the most invasive species of Pomacea in Peninsular Malaysia using a genomic approach. P. canaliculata appears to be the more widespread species. Despite statistical differences, both quantitative and qualitative morphological characteristics demonstrate much interspecific overlap and intraspecific variability; thus morphology alone cannot reliably verify species identity. Molecular techniques for distinguishing between these two highly invasive Pomacea species are needed to understand their specific ecological niches and develop effective protocols for their management.

Keywords: Invasive Species, Pomacea canaliculata, Pomacea maculata, phylog enetic analysis, geometric morphometric analysis

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6 Fatal Attractions: Exploiting Olfactory Communication between Invasive Predators for Conservation

Authors: Patrick M. Garvey, Roger P. Pech, Daniel M. Tompkins


Competition is a widespread interaction and natural selection will encourage the development of mechanisms that recognise and respond to dominant competitors, if this information reduces the risk of a confrontation. As olfaction is the primary sense for most mammals, our research tested whether olfactory ‘eavesdropping’ mediates alien species interactions and whether we could exploit our understanding of this behaviour to create ‘super-lures’. We used a combination of pen and field experiments to evaluate the importance of this behaviour. In pen trials, stoats (Mustela erminea) were exposed to the body odour of three dominant predators (cat / ferret / African wild dog) and these scents were found to be attractive. A subsequent field trial tested whether attraction displayed towards predator odour, particularly ferret (Mustela furo) pheromones, could be replicated with invasive predators in the wild. We found that ferret odour significantly improved detection and activity of stoats and hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus), while also improving detections of ship rats (Rattus rattus). Our current research aims to identify the key components of ferret odour, using chemical analysis and behavioural experiments, so that we can produce ‘scent from a can’. A lure based on a competitors’ odour would be beneficial in many circumstances including: (i) where individuals display variability in attraction to food lures, (ii) there are plentiful food resources available, (iii) new immigrants arrive into an area, (iv) long-life lures are required. Pest management can therefore benefit by exploiting behavioural responses to odours to achieve conservation goals.

Keywords: Invasive Species, semiochemicals, predator interactions, eavesdropping

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5 The Retrospective Investigation of the Impacts of Alien Taxa on Human Health: A Case Study of Two Poison Information Centers

Authors: Moleseng Claude Moshobane


Alien species cause considerable negative impacts on biodiversity, economy and public health. Impacts of alien species on public health have received a degree of attention worldwide, largely in developed countries, but scarce in developing countries. Here, we provide a review of human exposures and poisonings cases from native and alien plant species reported to poison information centers. A retrospective review of the Tygerberg Poison Information Centre (TPIC) and Poisons Information Centre (PIC) at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital (RCWMCH) was conducted over approximately 2-year period (1 June 2015 through to 06 March 2017). Combined, TPIC and PIC handled 626 cases during the 2-year period. Toxicity cases were more abundant in Gauteng (47.1%), followed by Western Cape (29.4%). The primary mechanism of injury was ingestion (96.7%), and all cases were predominantly accidental. Most reported cases involved infants (20.6%), with few fully-grown adults related cases (5.8%). Adults presented minor to moderate toxicity, while infants none to minor toxicity. We conclude that reported toxicity cases on human health are biased towards few alien species and that several cases relate to unknown species of mushrooms. Public awareness is essential to reducing the poisoning incidences.

Keywords: Public Health, Invasive Species, poisoning, alien species

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4 The Pitfalls of Short-Range Endemism: High Vulnerability to Ecological and Landscape Traps

Authors: Leanda Denise Mason, Philip William Bateman, Grant Wardell-Johnson


Ecological traps attract biota to low-quality habitats. Landscape traps are zones caught in a vortex of spiraling degradation. Here, we demonstrate how short-range endemic traits may make such taxa vulnerable to ecological and landscape traps. Three short-range endemic mygalomorph spider species were used in this study. Mygalomorphs can be long-lived ( > 40 years) and select sites for permanent burrows in their early dispersal phase. Spiderlings from two species demonstrated choice for microhabitats that correspond to where adults typically occur. An invasive veldt grass microhabitat was selected almost exclusively by spiderlings of the third species. Habitat dominated by veldt grass has lower prey diversity and abundance than undisturbed habitats and therefore acts as an ecological trap for this species. Furthermore, as a homogenising force, veldt grass can spread to form a landscape trap in naturally heterogeneous ecosystems. Selection of specialised microhabitats of short-range endemics may explain high extinction rates in old, stable landscapes undergoing (human-induced) rapid change.

Keywords: Invasive Species, biotic homogenization, mygalomorph, short-range endemic

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3 Conservation Detection Dogs to Protect Europe's Native Biodiversity from Invasive Species

Authors: Helga Heylen


With dogs saving wildlife in New Zealand since 1890 and governments in Africa, Australia and Canada trusting them to give the best results, Conservation Dogs Ireland want to introduce more detection dogs to protect Europe's native wildlife. Conservation detection dogs are fast, portable and endlessly trainable. They are a cost-effective, highly sensitive and non-invasive way to detect protected and invasive species and wildlife disease. Conservation dogs find targets up to 40 times faster than any other method. They give results instantly, with near-perfect accuracy. They can search for multiple targets simultaneously, with no reduction in efficacy The European Red List indicates the decline in biodiversity has been most rapid in the past 50 years, and the risk of extinction never higher. Just two examples of major threats dogs are trained to tackle are: (I)Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia Japonica), not only a serious threat to ecosystems, crops, structures like bridges and roads - it can wipe out the entire value of a house. The property industry and homeowners are only just waking up to the full extent of the nightmare. When those working in construction on the roads move topsoil with a trace of Japanese Knotweed, it suffices to start a new colony. Japanese Knotweed grows up to 7cm a day. It can stay dormant and resprout after 20 years. In the UK, the cost of removing Japanese Knotweed from the London Olympic site in 2012 was around £70m (€83m). UK banks already no longer lend on a house that has Japanese Knotweed on-site. Legally, landowners are now obliged to excavate Japanese Knotweed and have it removed to a landfill. More and more, we see Japanese Knotweed grow where a new house has been constructed, and topsoil has been brought in. Conservation dogs are trained to detect small fragments of any part of the plant on sites and in topsoil. (II)Zebra mussels (Dreissena Polymorpha) are a threat to many waterways in the world. They colonize rivers, canals, docks, lakes, reservoirs, water pipes and cooling systems. They live up to 3 years and will release up to one million eggs each year. Zebra mussels attach to surfaces like rocks, anchors, boat hulls, intake pipes and boat engines. They cause changes in nutrient cycles, reduction of plankton and increased plant growth around lake edges, leading to the decline of Europe's native mussel and fish populations. There is no solution, only costly measures to keep it at bay. With many interconnected networks of waterways, they have spread uncontrollably. Conservation detection dogs detect the Zebra mussel from its early larvae stage, which is still invisible to the human eye. Detection dogs are more thorough and cost-effective than any other conservation method, and will greatly complement and speed up the work of biologists, surveyors, developers, ecologists and researchers.

Keywords: Invasive Species, native biodiversity, conservation detection dogs, Japanese Knotweed, zebra mussel

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2 Effect of Climate Change on the Genomics of Invasiveness of the Whitefly Bemisia tabaci Species Complex by Estimating the Effective Population Size via a Coalescent Method

Authors: Samia Elfekih, Wee Tek Tay, Karl Gordon, Paul De Barro


Invasive species represent an increasing threat to food biosecurity, causing significant economic losses in agricultural systems. An example is the sweet potato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, which is a complex of morphologically indistinguishable species causing average annual global damage estimated at US$2.4 billion. The Bemisia complex represents an interesting model for evolutionary studies because of their extensive distribution and potential for invasiveness and population expansion. Within this complex, two species, Middle East-Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) and Mediterranean (MED) have invaded well beyond their home ranges whereas others, such as Indian Ocean (IO) and Australia (AUS), have not. In order to understand why some Bemisia species have become invasive, genome-wide sequence scans were used to estimate population dynamics over time and relate these to climate. The Bayesian Skyline Plot (BSP) method as implemented in BEAST was used to infer the historical effective population size. In order to overcome sampling bias, the populations were combined based on geographical origin. The datasets used for this particular analysis are genome-wide SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) called separately in each of the following groups: Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso), Europe (Spain, France, Greece and Croatia), USA (Arizona), Mediterranean-Middle East (Israel, Italy), Middle East-Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Iran) and Reunion Island. The non-invasive ‘AUS’ species endemic to Australia was used as an outgroup. The main findings of this study show that the BSP for the Sub-Saharan African MED population is different from that observed in MED populations from the Mediterranean Basin, suggesting evolution under a different set of environmental conditions. For MED, the effective size of the African (Burkina Faso) population showed a rapid expansion ≈250,000-310,000 years ago (YA), preceded by a period of slower growth. The European MED populations (i.e., Spain, France, Croatia, and Greece) showed a single burst of expansion at ≈160,000-200,000 YA. The MEAM1 populations from Israel and Italy and the ones from Iran and Turkmenistan are similar as they both show the earlier expansion at ≈250,000-300,000 YA. The single IO population lacked the latter expansion but had the earlier one. This pattern is shared with the Sub-Saharan African (Burkina Faso) MED, suggesting IO also faced a similar history of environmental change, which seems plausible given their relatively close geographical distributions. In conclusion, populations within the invasive species MED and MEAM1 exhibited signatures of population expansion lacking in non-invasive species (IO and AUS) during the Pleistocene, a geological epoch marked by repeated climatic oscillations with cycles of glacial and interglacial periods. These expansions strongly suggested the potential of some Bemisia species’ genomes to affect their adaptability and invasiveness.

Keywords: Climate Change, Invasive Species, snp, whitefly, RADseq

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1 Invasive Ranges of Gorse (Ulex europaeus) in South Australia and Sri Lanka Using Species Distribution Modelling

Authors: Champika S. Kariyawasam


The distribution of gorse (Ulex europaeus) plants in South Australia has been modelled using 126 presence-only location data as a function of seven climate parameters. The predicted range of U. europaeus is mainly along the Mount Lofty Ranges in the Adelaide Hills and on Kangaroo Island. Annual precipitation and yearly average aridity index appeared to be the highest contributing variables to the final model formulation. The Jackknife procedure was employed to identify the contribution of different variables to gorse model outputs and response curves were used to predict changes with changing environmental variables. Based on this analysis, it was revealed that the combined effect of one or more variables could make a completely different impact to the original variables on their own to the model prediction. This work also demonstrates the need for a careful approach when selecting environmental variables for projecting correlative models to climatically distinct area. Maxent acts as a robust model when projecting the fitted species distribution model to another area with changing climatic conditions, whereas the generalized linear model, bioclim, and domain models to be less robust in this regard. These findings are important not only for predicting and managing invasive alien gorse in South Australia and Sri Lanka but also in other countries of the invasive range.

Keywords: Invasive Species, MaxEnt, species distribution modelling, Ulex europaeus

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