Genome size does not predict invasiveness in Cactaceae
Cacti being sold in a South African nursery. (Photo provided by Ana Novoa)

Genome size does not predict invasiveness in Cactaceae

A recent study provides a large number of genome size estimates for species within the cactus family (Cactaceae), offering great opportunities for studying the evolution of genome size in this family. The study, which was published in Biological Invasions, has been carried out at the University of Coimbra (Portugal), with the collaboration of C·I·B Director David Richardson and former C·I·B post-doc Ana Novoa.

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Body size determines how African herbivores respond to fire
Herbivores such as zebra often prefer recently burnt habitats to utilise highly nutritious post-fire regrowth and improve predator detection. (Photo credit: Brian van Wilgen).

Body size determines how African herbivores respond to fire

African herbivores respond differently to recently burnt environments, and these differences can be heavily dependent on body size. This was the finding from a recent literature review conducted by PhD student Willem Nieman and Dr Alison Leslie (Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University), Prof. Brian van Wilgen (C∙I∙B Core Team Member) and Dr Frans Radloff (Department of Conservation and Marine Science, Cape Peninsula University of Technology) in which they describe the responses of medium- to large-sized African mammals to fire.

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What evidence do we have that investing in ecological infrastructure produces benefits?
Conceptual framework of the impacts of ecological infrastructure interventions. The potential (not-exhaustive) relationships between ecosystem properties, processes and ecosystem services are shown for the South African case studies. The causal loop diagram shows linkages between native-invader dynamics (figure 5) and internal ecosystem properties (stocks in black boxes with green arrows), processes (black italics), ecosystem services (purple) and external anthropogenic factors (red). The climate system is shown in blue, and fire dynamics in orange (some elements adapted from Luvuno et al. [31]). Ecological infrastructure interventions (EII) are given in red, labelled EII1–10 (no boxes), demonstrating the impacts that investments in ecological infrastructure could have on various key ecosystem processes and services. Links (arrows) where empirical evidence exists to support the relationship between variables for these South African case studies are given in bold.

What evidence do we have that investing in ecological infrastructure produces benefits?

In a study of three South African river catchments (the Berg, Breede and uMngeni) that have received significant investment into ecological infrastructure (e.g. clearing invasive alien trees), the evidence base for the benefits of these investments was found to be empirically weak.

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Barcoding as a tool to track emerging pests: the case of the sugarcane long-horned beetle
Sugarcane long-horned beetle (Cacosceles newmannii) larva in a sugarcane stalk. Picture taken by Marion Javal.

Barcoding as a tool to track emerging pests: the case of the sugarcane long-horned beetle

Identifying agricultural crop pests quickly and reliably is critical to track their spread and to apply suitable control measures where needed. However, the identification of insect pests is often hampered by the lack of taxonomic expertise, especially in complex and poorly known tropical groups. DNA barcoding is often used as a supporting tool to identify species in the context of invertebrate pest management but relies on comprehensive and well-curated molecular databases.

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Insights into the future distribution of invasive alien plants in the Heuningnes catchment
Invasive Port Jackson (Acacia saligna) growing along a gravel road in Heuningnes catchment (Photo credit: Bhongolethu Mtengwana)

Insights into the future distribution of invasive alien plants in the Heuningnes catchment

A recent study by former C∙I∙B student, Bongolethu Mtengwana, demonstrated the advantage of combining different species distribution models to identify areas that are at risk of future invasions by Invasive Alien Plants (IAPs).

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