Back from the brink: how biocontrol saved St Helena’s national tree from extinction

Gumwoods of St Helena
The gumwoods of St Helena are flourishing again after facing extinction

By Wayne Coles

At first sight the humble scale insect, Orthezia insignis doesn’t seem like it could pack much of a punch in a ‘fight’ against a range of native flora – but to make such an assumption would be very dangerous indeed.

In fact Orthezia insignis is a genuine invasive menace which in Hawaii, East Africa and South and Central America has, at times, wreaked havoc on numerous ornamental plants including citrus, coffee, olive, Jacaranda and Lantana.

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This World Environment Day it’s time to beat plastic pollution

Plastic_waste
Discarded plastic waste. Image credit: Ben_Kerckx via Pixabay

World Environment Day, held annually on 5th June, is considered to be the UN’s most important day for promoting global awareness and action to protect the environment.  This year’s theme is one that shines a spotlight on what has become a particularly hot topic over the last year – plastic pollution.   Coincidentally, it was also the theme of this year’s Earth Day and will be the focus of World Oceans Day on June 8 and all for good reason.

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School expedition gathers data on biodiversity in Mexico

Scuba quadrat Scuba quadrats. Image credit: David H. Williams, Rye St Antony

Our guest blogger this month is David Williams, who is the Head of Science at Rye St Antony School, Oxford. He recently led a group of schoolgirls on an Operation Wallacea expedition to Mexico, where they took part in a conservation project which involved conducting mammal surveys and assessing the impacts of tourism on turtle populations and coral reefs. David tells his story as a diary looking at events over the two-week expedition.

I was delighted to be asked to blog on this subject. One of my student’s parents works at CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) – an organisation that focuses on the environment and biodiversity. As an editor at this organisation, she saw the opportunity to highlight the work of schools and conservation. I’m keen to promote science both as a career and as an interest for life, and feel that this is best done by encouraging an appreciation of science as a real, relevant and ongoing subject. My story starts here …

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Ebola: a “filthy little virus” says Bob Geldorf

Sierra_Leone_National_Ebola_Emergency_Operations_Center _CDC
Sierra Leone National Ebola Emergency Operations Center
Credit: Jennifer Brooks, CDC.


Following
the launch of Band Aid 30, "the Ebola song”, on X-factor [Sunday 16 November 2014], Bob Geldorf did the media rounds on the Monday morning including BBC 5live, to further drive home the message. People are dying from Ebola in West Africa because they are poor, living in countries without the health service infrastructure to stop it in its tracks, and “we are all just a plane ride away from it”.AS of that Monday, you can buy and download the song here via Amazon, Itunes and Google Play, or purchase the CD.

WE at CABI, devoted last month’s focus of the Global Health Knowledge Base e-newsletter to Ebola research.

With the charitable effort of Band Aid 30 ringing in our ears, I thought it timely to highlight another such effort, from researchers, specifically from the Wellcome Trust.

Wellcome Trust: Emergency Ebola initiative
 The Wellcome Trust (WT), the world's second largest private funder  of medical research after Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,  are funding a multi-million pound emergency research package [Emergency Ebola Initiative] to investigate new approaches to treat, prevent and contain Ebola viral disease, during the current epidemic in West Africa. WT will also support research into the ethical challenges of testing experimental medicines during epidemics, and has a £40 million long-term investment in African science.

One of their anti-Ebola vaccines is being fast-tracked.

Further Reading

A new rapid sequencing method created for Lassa, was applied to Ebola virus, sequencing nearly 100 Ebola patient blood samples In Sierra Leone, within 10 days. The method is also cost-effective, and may help West African nations rapidly and effectively track outbreaks with limited resources. This article is one of the records on CABI's Global Health database.

 

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And now for the world’s most important plant viruses

Other than possibly the newly discovered leaping beetles of New Caledonia with a mysterious plant diet, few if any plant pests or diseases make it onto any one of the Time Top of Everything of 2011 lists.

But pests and diseases are busy making their way into their own ‘Top 10’. CABI scientists put together a list in 2011 of some of the world’s worst plant pests, and plant viruses and fungal pathogens are also getting together.

Molecular Plant Pathology has published the results of a survey amongst plant virologists, ranking plant viruses based on scientific/economic importance. The historical perspective, the science, the economics and the latest research are discussed for each of the viruses making it into the ‘Top 10’.

First place is given to Tobacco mosaic virus for its scientific importance based on its role which has extended beyond practical plant pathology (as a virus causing serious losses in a profitable crop) to its use as a model system and in molecular pathology. TMV (just to corroborate its importance) is also the highest ranking plant virus on CAB Abstracts. The database has more than 8000 records specifically on TMV since 1909 (just over 10% of all the records on plant viruses on the database), and is still going strong with about 100 records added each year.

‘Top 10 plant viruses in molecular plant pathology’ is free to download here. Now watch out for the ‘Top 10 fungal pathogens in molecular plant pathology’…coming soon…

Beekeepers March on Whitehall

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Wallingford is not only where our community of bloggers resides, but it is also home to Rowse Honey, the ‘UK’s leading honey company’. For honey-lovers everywhere, attention will have been drawn to
a BBC news bulletin yesterday announcing that English honey supplies could run
out by Christmas (BBC, 2008).

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