Page 102 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
P. 102

PLANT PRODUCTION and food security
Climate change and the impact of people on the environment is
an important theme in several research areas at the University
of Pretoria. Two examples are given here of the work of young researchers who, in partnerships with international scholars, have focused their work on the introductions of species into areas to which they are not indigenous, posing a serious threat to biodiversity and to the economy.
With the increasing movement of goods and people around the world, organisms are introduced
to regions where some become invasive with negative ecological and socio-economic impacts.
The number of alien species introduced to South Africa has increased over time. Often the most cost- effective ways of dealing with alien and potentially harmful organisms is to prevent their introduction, which requires the implementation of effective biosecurity measures.
Dr Katelyn Faulkner and Professor Mark Robertson in the Department of Zoology and Entomology, with
Professors Mathieu Rouget (CIRAD, La Réunion)
and John Wilson (Centre for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University), are attempting to identify species that are likely to be introduced (future aliens). The value of their research is in providing information that can be used to identify priorities, and to direct action and resources to prevent the introduction of potentially harmful alien organisms. To this end, they have been involved in the development of a watch list of invasive species for South Africa. Species on the watch list include the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus), which is a vector of human and animal diseases such as the West Nile virus and Avian malaria, and the Asian tunicate (Styela clava),
a marine invertebrate that competes with local and aquaculture species.
They have also established that a large number of alien species are transported to South Africa on ships. Their results suggest that the Durban port,
in particular, needs to be targeted with biosecurity measures as it is likely to be the recipient of the highest number of these alien species. It is South Africa’s busiest port and is environmentally similar to many of the ports from which visiting ships travel.
The watch list they have developed is currently being used by the Biosecurity Unit of the Department of Environmental Affairs. They are also contributing
to the first National Status Report on Biological Invasions (due to be finalised in 2017), which will provide information on the extent and impact
of biological invasions and the effectiveness of interventions.
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