Earth Observation meets in-situ biodiversity monitoring: Pensoft joins the OBSGESSION project

As a leader of the Work Package 6: “Dissemination, Multi-stakeholder outreach and synergies,” Pensoft is tasked to build an involved community around OBSGESSION.

Pensoft is to contribute to the OBSGESSION consortium with expertise in science communication by taking care of stakeholders engagement, thereby supporting its goal of improved terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity monitoring. As a leader of the Work Package 6: “Dissemination, Multi-stakeholder outreach and synergies,” Pensoft is tasked to build an involved community around OBSGESSION.

Terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity has been declining at an alarming rate due various factors such as intensification of anthropogenic activities and climate change.

To help protect and preserve precious ecosystems, the new research project OBSGESSION (Observation of Ecosystem Changes for Action) launched, jointly funded under the EU programme Horizon Europe, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the University of Zurich (UZH). 

Coordinated by the Finnish Environmental Institute (Syke), OBSGESSION aims to reveal the drivers of biodiversity loss, pinpoint important indicators of ecosystem health and inform sustainability policy.

The project

OBSGESSION launched in January 2024 and will wrap up in December 2027 with the support of ~7.3 million EUR of funding, provided by the European Union’s Horizon Europe program, The UK Research and Innovation program (UKRI), and the University of Zurich (UZH).

The OBSGESSION consortium at the kick-off meeting in January 2024 (Tuusula, Finland).

The project officially kicked off with the first consortium meeting in Tuusula, Finland, between 30th January and 2nd February.

For the coming four years, the joint mission before the newly formed consortium is to integrate biodiversity data sources, such as Earth Observation, with in-situ research, and also cutting-edge ecological models. These will all be made into a comprehensive product for biodiversity management in both terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. 

The project will also spearhead an innovative approach for assessing Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and their resilience to errors. Through purposely propagating error into biodiversity estimates and comparing the resulting models with ones using correct estimates, the EBV case studies aim to investigate model uncertainties and identify approaches that are more sensitive. Thus, they will inform policy and management about the optimal EBVs, and their key thresholds for conservation.

To demonstrate the implementation of the techniques and methodologies they are to develop within the project; and to respond to the needs of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the consortium will focus on six distinct pilot activities:

  1. Investigating and predicting biodiversity change in the European Alps: multi-scale, multi-modal and multi-temporal investigation using remote and in-situ data integration.
  2. Improving habitat classification models: going beyond state-of-the-art in terms of accurate high-resolution mapping of Europe’s habitats, powered by machine learning.
  3. Forecasting ecosystem productivity under disturbances & climate change: incorporating remote sensing EBVs to assess metrics of ecosystem structure and health.
  4. Supporting temperate and boreal forest protection & restoration: through assessing ecosystem conditions via eDNA & image spectroscopy.
  5. Monitoring freshwater ecosystems under disturbances & climate change: utilizing the novel Thematic Ecosystem Change Indices (TECIs).
  6. Ecosystem functioning of the Kokemäenjoki estuary – assessing freshwater & transitional water quality incorporating both in-situ and Earth Observation data.

Through its pilot studies, methodological assessments, data stream integration, and investigating land use cover changes across Europe, OBSGESSION will help improve our understanding of ecosystem vulnerability across a range of specific habitat types, identify drivers and pressures to ecosystem change and improve planning and prioritization of restoration measures.

“At Pensoft, we are eager to be part of the bright OBSGESSION consortium and look forward to offering our expertise and experience in raising awareness towards the project and contributing to the high impact of the resulting outputs, methodologies and policy recommendations that aim to strengthen our understanding of biodiversity change,”

says Gabriela Popova, science communicator at Pensoft and leader of the Work Package #6: “Dissemination, Multi-stakeholder outreach and synergies” at OBSGESSION.

International Consortium

The interdisciplinary OBSGESSION consortium consists of 11 partnering organisations from seven European countries, who bring diverse expertise spanning from remote sensing and Earth observation, to freshwater ecosystems, programming and science communication. Many partners represent acclaimed scientific institutions with rich experience in collaborative EU projects.

Full list of partners:

Find more on the OBSGESSION website: https://obsgession.eu, and follow the project on X/Twitter (@obsgession_) and Linkedin (/obsgession-horizoneurope).

Maximising the impact of standardised biodiversity data: Pensoft’s role in the EU project B-Cubed

In line with its commitment to providing open-access biodiversity data, Pensoft has joined forces with 12 organisations to form the B-Cubed project.

The problem at hand

Measuring the extent and dynamics of the global biodiversity crisis is a challenging task that demands rapid, reliable and repeatable biodiversity monitoring data. Such data is essential for policymakers to be able to assess policy options effectively and accurately. To achieve this, however, there is a need to enhance the integration of biodiversity data from various sources, including citizen scientists, museums, herbaria, and researchers.

B-Cubed’s response

B-Cubed (Biodiversity Building Blocks for policy) hopes to tackle this challenge by reimagining the process of biodiversity monitoring, making it more adaptable and responsive. 

B-Cubed’s approach rests on six pillars: 

  • Improved alignment between policy and biodiversity data. Working closely with existing biodiversity initiatives to identify and meet policy needs.
  • Evidence base. Leveraging data cubes to standardise access to biodiversity data using the Essential Biodiversity Variables framework. These cubes are the basis for models and indicators of biodiversity.
  • Cloud computing environment. Providing users with access to the models in real-time and on demand.
  • Automated workflows. Developing exemplary automated workflows for modelling using biodiversity data cubes and for calculating change indicators.
  • Case studies. Demonstrating the effectiveness of B-Cubed’s tools.
  • Capacity building. Ensuring that the solutions meet openness standards and training end-users to employ them.

Pensoft’s role

Harnessing its experience in the communication, dissemination and exploitation of numerous EU projects, Pensoft focuses on maximising B-Cubed’s impact and ensuring the adoption and long-term legacy of its results. This encompasses a wide array of activities, ranging all the way from building the project’s visual and online presence to translating its results into policy recommendations. Pensoft also oversees B-Cubed’s data management by developing a Data Management Plan which ensures the implementation of the FAIR data principles and maximises the access to and re-use of the project’s research outputs.

Full list of partners

Visit B-Cubed’s website at https://b-cubed.eu/. You can also follow the project on X @BCubedProject and LinkedIn /B-Cubed Project, as well as by subscribing to its newsletter here.

Pensoft’s science illustrator Denitsa Peneva wins first place at a prestigious international contest

“Dormice of Europe (Gliridae)” – an illustration combining watercolour and pencil – and Denitsa Peneva won at the Illustraciencia competition in the “Nature Illustration” category.

Dormice of Europe (Gliridae)” – an illustration combining watercolour and pencil – and its author Denitsa Peneva won at the Illustraciencia competition in the “Nature Illustration” category. This year, the contest saw over 500 works.

Since 2009, the annual international event convened by the Spanish National Research Council and the Catalan Association of Scientific Communication has been recognising scientific illustrations with the aim to popularise science within the wider society. 

Denitsa’s illustration depicts five dormouse species known from Europe: the Roach’s mouse-tailed or ground dormouse (Myomimus roachi), the forest dormouse (Dryomys nitedula), the European edible dormouse (Glis glis), the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) and the garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus). Each of the rodents is seen on a plant that is typical either for its habitat or diet. Respectively, one of the species – which is a carnivore – is shown next to a snail.

Curiously, “Dormice of Europe (Gliridae)” was inspired by last year’s 11th International Dormouse Conference, which took place in Svilengrad, Bulgaria. The locality was not chosen at random. It had just recently been found to house a large population of the rarest dormouse species for Europe. At the time, the Roach’s mouse-tailed or ground dormouse (Myomimus roachi), a species endemic to the Balkans, had not been encountered for almost 40 years.



You can follow the work by Denitsa on her Facebook page.

Lizards go north: Balkan wall lizard population found all the way in the Czech Republic

The northernmost population of the Balkan lizard, recently discovered in the Czech Republic, has proven to be genetically unique and variable.

The Czech Republic is a zoologically well-studied area, and its reptile fauna is not very rich. Therefore, the recent discovery of a new reptile species for the country, the Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis tauricus), came as a big surprise. This lizard inhabits areas of the Central and Western Balkans as far as Crimea, with isolated areas of occurrence in Hungary and northern Romania, so how did it get as far north as the Czech Republic? Fortunately, the genetics in much of the lizard’s range are relatively well-studied. Finding out where lizards from the Czech Republic fit genetically could reveal the origins of this northernmost population.

Podarcis tauricus in the wild – Váté písky near Bzenec, Czech Republic.

An analysis published by Czech herpetologists in the journal Biodiversity Data Journal shows that the lizards from the Czech population are genetically variable; therefore, the population was not established by the introduction of a single gravid female.

Geographical distribution of Podarcis tauricus. The green arrow shows the northernmost known locality (Váté písky, Czech Republic).

The population also has genetic “markers” not yet found elsewhere, although it is clearly related to populations from the Central and Western Balkans and Hungary. These findings suggest that this could be an original, possibly relict population.

Haplotype network, designed from 24 haplotypes of the cytb locus from 167 individuals of Podarcis tauricus and Podarcis gaigeae (Psonis et al. 2017; this study). Colours correspond to the country of the specimen’s geographical origin and each circle corresponds to a haplotype. The circle size is proportional to the number of individuals with the same haplotype. The number of individuals per haplotype is indicated. Due to the unequal size of cytb sequences from Psonis et al. (2017), only a fragment of 257 bp which was common for all 167 sequences was used for the haplotype network reconstruction. For this region of cytb locus, the sequences of our individuals from Czech Republic are identical to 18 individuals from Albania, Hungary, Kosovo and Serbia.

However, we cannot rule out recent introductions or spontaneous northward dispersal of the lizard associated with global climate change. Exotic species of animals and plants appear in the Czech Republic through various routes and tracing their origin is not always easy. Both intentional and unintentional introductions have been recorded for some reptiles, while some previously southern vertebrate and invertebrate species spread to the north spontaneously.

The first genetic data on the origin of the northernmost population of the Balkan wall lizard suggest that the lizard can spread to the north naturally; however, further investigations are needed to support this tentative conclusion. 

Research article:

Rehák I, Fischer D, Kratochvíl L, Rovatsos M (2022) Origin and haplotype diversity of the northernmost population of Podarcis tauricus (Squamata, Lacertidae): Do lizards respond to climate change and go north? Biodiversity Data Journal 10: e82156. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.10.e82156

Citizen scientists from three continents help discover a new, giant slug from Europe

The animal, as big as a medium-sized carrot, was discovered on a citizen-science expedition and jointly described by its participants.

You might think that Europe is so well studied that no large animals remain undiscovered. Yet today, a new species of giant keelback slug from Montenegro was announced in the open-access Biodiversity Data Journal. The animal, as big as a medium-sized carrot, was discovered on a citizen-science expedition and jointly described by its participants.

A living specimen of Limax pseudocinereoniger on a researcher’s hand.

The international team of citizen scientists from Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia, South Africa, and the United States found the slug in July 2019 while exploring the spectacular Tara Canyon, Europe’s deepest gorge, on inflatable rafts. The brownish-grey animals, with a sharp ridge along the back, and 20 cm in length when fully stretched, were hiding under rocky overhangs in the narrowest part of the ravine.

A living specimen of Limax pseudocinereoniger seen from the side. Photo by Pierre Escoubas

At first, the newly discovered slugs seemed superficially indistinguishable from the ash-black keelback slug (Limax cinereoniger), which also lives in the Tara Canyon. The team had to use a portable DNA lab to work out that there is a 10% difference between the two slugs in the so-called DNA barcode. Moreover, when they dissected a few of them, they found differences in the reproductive organs as well. This was enough to decide that a new species had been discovered, and they named it Limax pseudocinereoniger to indicate its similarity to L. cinereoniger.

The field trip was run by Taxon Expeditions, which organises real scientific expeditions for the general public, with the aim to make scientific discoveries. Rick de Vries, a web editor and illustrator from Amsterdam who found the first specimen of L. pseudocinereoniger, says: “It’s an incredible thrill to hold an animal in your hands and to know that it is still unknown to science”.

Citizen scientists studying specimens in the team’s field lab in Montenegro.

Zoologist Iva Njunjić, one of the authors of the paper, thinks that more unknown species are likely to be found in Tara Canyon and the Durmitor National Park, of which it is part. “Using a combination of DNA analysis and anatomy will probably reveal more species that are identical on the outside but actually belong to different species,” she says.

In 2023, Taxon Expeditions plans to take a new team of citizen scientists to Montenegro with a mission to discover new species and document the hidden biodiversity.

Taxon Expeditions was founded by Iva Njunjić and Menno Schilthuizen of Naturalis Biodiversity Center and specialises in ‘taxonomy tourism’ trips in Brunei, Italy, Montenegro, Panama, and the Netherlands.

Original source:

Schilthuizen M, Thompson CG, de Vries R, van Peursen ADP, Paterno M, Maestri S, Marcolongo L, Esposti CD, Delledonne M, Njunjić I (2022) A new giant keelback slug of the genus Limax from the Balkans, described by citizen scientists. Biodiversity Data Journal 10: e69685. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.10.e69685

Guest blog post: Operation desert: crab and dwarf spider discovered on sand dunes in military area, Slovakia

Guest blog post by Pavol Purgat

For the first time in Slovakia, the dwarf spider Walckenaeria stylifrons and crab spider Spiracme mongolica were discovered on sand dunes in Záhorie Protected Landscape Area, on  localities that serve as a military complex, used by the native Slovak army. Moreover, the spider W. stylifrons was found in a wine-growing region near the historical town of Modra.

Scientists Pavol Purgat, Dr Peter Gajdoš, Natália Hurajtová, Institute of Landscape Ecology-Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia, and Dr Katarína Krajčovičová, Dr Adrián Purkart, Ľubomír Volnár, Faculty of Natural Sciences-Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia have published their paper, where they introduce two new spider species for Slovakia, in the open-access journal CheckList, the journal of biodiversity data.

Dwarf spider, Walckenaeria stilifrons

European continental sand dunes, characterized by high ground temperature, high temperature fluctuations and movement of sand masses, belong to the rare, climatically extreme areas resembling deserts. In Europe, lowland sandy grassland habitats are considered to be among the most endangered and are often the subject of nature conservation.

The researchers decided to understand the spider assemblages living in such extreme habitats in Western Slovakia. During 2018–2019, the study sites were chosen and co-called pitfall traps hidden in the ground were used to collect spiders.

Among other collected species, two spiders were found for the first time in Slovakia. The dwarf spider W. stilifrons is recorded from 15 European countries and it is known from Eastern England to Eastern Germany in the north, and from the Iberian Peninsula to the Crimea and Cyprus in the south. Within Central Europe, the species has so far been known from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The crab spider S. mongolica is known from Serbia to the European part of Russia. Its distribution in Asia extends from Central Asian part of Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan to Mongolia and China. In China it is known only from Western Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang region.

Crab spider, Spiracme mongolica

Upon the detailed examination of male copulatory organs, the researchers found out that one of the species shares characters typical for the genus Spiracme, in consideration of that a new combination Spiracme mongolica for the spider previously known as Xysticus mongolicus was suggested.

In conclusion, the authors assume that W. stilifrons can live elsewhere in Europe. The rarity of the species may be related to the occurrence of adults, especially in the winter months, as most researchers are focused only on the growing seasons. The occurrence of S. mongolica in sand dunes in Slovakia confirms this species preference for dry habitats. The new finding of S. mongolica is the most known westernmost.

Research article:
Purgat P, Gajdoš P, Purkart A, Hurajtová N, Volnár Ľ, Krajčovičová K (2021) Walckenaeria stilifrons and Spiracme mongolica (Araneae, Linyphiidae, Thomisidae), two new species to Slovakia. Check List 17 (6): 1601-1608. doi: 10.15560/17.6.1601

The first Red List of Taxonomists in Europe is calling for the support of insect specialists

The Red List of Taxonomists portal, where taxonomy experts in the field of entomology can register to help map and assess expertise across Europe, in order to provide action points necessary to overcome the risks, preserve and support this important scientific community, will remain open until 31st October 2021.

About 1,000 insect taxonomists – both professional and citizen scientists – from across the European region have already signed up on the Red List of Taxonomists, a recently launched European Commission-funded initiative by the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the scholarly publisher best-known for its biodiversity-themed journals and high-tech innovations in biodiversity data publishing Pensoft.

Insect taxonomists, both professional and citizen scientists, are welcome to register on the Red List of Taxonomists portal at: red-list-taxonomists.eu and further disseminate the registration portal to fellow taxonomists until 31st October 2021.

Within the one-year project, the partners are to build a database of European taxonomy experts in the field of entomology and analyse the collected data to shed light on the trends in available expertise, including best or least studied insect taxa and geographic distribution of the scientists who are working on those groups. Then, they will present them to policy makers at the European Commission.

By recruiting as many as possible insect taxonomists from across Europe, the Red List of Taxonomists initiative will not only be able to identify taxa and countries, where the “extinction” of insect taxonomists has reached a critical point, but also create a robust knowledge base on taxonomic expertise across the European region to prompt further support and funding for taxonomy in the Old Continent.

On behalf of the project partners, we would like to express our immense gratitude to everyone who has self-declared as an insect taxonomist on the Red List of Taxonomists registration portal. Please feel welcome to share our call for participation with colleagues and social networks to achieve maximum engagement from everyone concerned about the future of taxonomy!

***

Read more about the rationale of the Red List of Taxonomists project.

***

Follow and join the conversation on Twitter using the #RedListTaxonomists hashtag. 

Scientists unravel the evolution and relationships for all European butterflies in a first

For the first time, a complete time-calibrated phylogeny for a large group of invertebrates is published for an entire continent. A German-Swedish team of scientists provide a diagrammatic hypothesis of the relationships and evolutionary history for all 496 European species of butterflies currently in existence. Their study provides an important tool for evolutionary and ecological research, meant for the use of insect and ecosystem conservation.

For the first time, a complete time-calibrated phylogeny for a large group of invertebrates is published for an entire continent. 

The figure shows the relationships of the 496 extant European butterfly species in the course of their evolution during the last 100 million years.
Image by Dr Martin Wiemers

In a recent research paper in the open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal ZooKeys, a German-Swedish team of scientists provide a diagrammatic hypothesis of the relationships and evolutionary history for all 496 European species of butterflies currently in existence. Their study provides an important tool for evolutionary and ecological research, meant for the use of insect and ecosystem conservation.

In order to analyse the ancestral relationships and history of evolutionary divergence of all European butterflies currently inhabiting the Old continent, the team led by Martin Wiemers – affiliated with both the Senckenberg German Entomological Institute and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, mainly used molecular data from already published sources available from NCBI GenBank, but also contributed many new sequences, some from very local endemics for which no molecular data had previously been available.

The phylogenetic tree also includes butterfly species that have only recently been discovered using molecular methods. An example is this Blue (Polyommatus celina), which looks similar to the Common Blue. It used to be mistaken for the Common Blue in the Canary Islands and the southwestern part of the Mediterranean Region.
Photo by Dr Martin Wiemers

Butterflies, the spectacular members of the superfamily Papilionoidea, are seen as an important proponent for nature conservation, as they present an excellent indicator group of species, meaning they are capable of inferring the environmental conditions of a particular habitat. All in all, if the local populations of butterflies are thriving, so is their habitat.

Furthermore, butterflies are pollinating insects, which are of particular importance for the survival of humans. There is no doubt they have every right to be recognised as a flagship invertebrate group for conservation.

While many European butterflies are seriously threatened, this one: Madeiran Large White (Pieris wollastoni) is already extinct. The study includes the first sequence of this Madeiran endemic which was recorded in 1986 for the last time. The tree demonstrates that it was closely related to the Canary Island Large White (Pieris cheiranthi), another threatened endemic butterfly, which survives only on Tenerife and La Palma, but is already extinct on La Gomera.
Photo by Dr Martin Wiemers

In recent times, there has been a steady increase in the molecular data available for research, however, those would have been only used for studies restricted either to a selected subset of species, or to small geographic areas. Even though a complete phylogeny of European butterflies was published in 2019, also co-authored by Wiemers, it was not based on a global backbone phylogeny and, therefore, was also not time-calibrated.

In their paper, Wiemers and his team point out that phylogenies are increasingly used across diverse areas of macroecological research, such as studies on large-scale diversity patterns, disentangling historical and contemporary processes, latitudinal diversity gradients or improving species-area relationships. Therefore, this new phylogeny is supposed to help advance further similar ecological research.

The study includes molecular data from 18 localised endemics with no public DNA sequences previously available, such as the Canary Grayling (Hipparchia wyssii), which is only found on the island of Tenerife (Spain).
Photo by Dr Martin Wiemers

Original source: 

Wiemers M, Chazot N, Wheat CW, Schweiger O, Wahlberg N (2020) A complete time-calibrated multi-gene phylogeny of the European butterflies. ZooKeys 938: 97-124. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.938.50878

Invasive parrots have varying impacts on European biodiversity, citizens and economy

The monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus), also known as the Quaker parrot, is another South American species, known from the temperate to subtropical regions of Argentina and neighboring countries.
Photo by ParrotNet.

Non-native parrots can cause substantial agricultural damage and threaten native biodiversity, although impacts vary strongly depending on where these parrots have been introduced. Brought to Europe as pets, escaped or released parrots have established numerous wild populations across Europe. Tens of thousands of ring-necked and monk parakeets make up the bulk of Europe’s parrots, but several more species are gaining a foothold too.

A pan-European team of researchers, conservationists, wildlife managers and policy-makers worked together under the umbrella of ParrotNet, an EU COST Action, and have reviewed the available evidence on parrot damage, concluding that measures to prevent parrots from invading new areas are paramount for limiting future harm. Their findings are published in the open-access journal NeoBiota.

The ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri), also known as the rose-ringed parakeet, originates in Africa and South Asia.
Photo by ParrotNet.

Introduced parrots can damage the environment, but severe impacts remain rare and localised. So far, most reports of damage are linked to the widespread and locally abundant ring-necked and monk parakeets. Studies show that in their native ranges, both species can and regularly do inflict large crop losses, but in Europe, expectations of comparable widespread and severe damage to agriculture have so far failed to materialise.

In Europe, competition with native species presents a more serious problem, especially for ring-necked parakeets as they can compete with native species for food and breeding sites. Meanwhile, in the Americas, monk parakeets are notorious for the damage their stick nests cause to power infrastructures by catching fire, yet very little evidence for such problems exist in Europe.

Reported impacts for other parakeet species in Europe are virtually nonexistent, probably because these species have been introduced more recently and currently exist as relatively small and localised populations.

Dr Diederik Strubbe of the Terrestrial Ecology UnitGhent University (Belgium) elaborates:

“It was already well known that introduced parakeets can cause damage. There is the oft-cited example of a vineyard in Surrey (UK) where ring-necked parakeets caused a loss of thousands of bottles of wine. In Seville (Spain), the same parakeet species is threatening an endangered native bat population by evicting them from their roosting tree cavities. Our review of all reported impacts however shows that such severe damage is not the norm. In most cases, parakeets introduced to Europe only do limited damage and, for example, about half of the studies focusing on competition between introduced parakeets and native species explicitly report no evidence of impact.”

The study also highlights that differences in the type of damage, and the way they are reported and summarised influences the outcomes of invasive species impact assessments.

The generalised threat level that invasive species pose is often based on their worst known impacts, whilst the capabilities of a species to do damage often requires specific circumstances. While this is relevant information for identifying those invaders that can potentially have major impacts, it is not necessarily representative of the impacts the species is likely to have when introduced to a new area. Similarly, including damage reports from the native range or from other invaded ranges typically results in higher threat level estimates compared to what actually has been observed in Europe.

What can be done to mitigate parakeet impacts?

The Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria), also known as the Alexandrine parrot, occupies a natural range that extends from Afghanistan to Vietnam, including all of India, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands.
Photo by ParrotNet.

Based on the results of the study, the ParrotNet members also published a ‘policy brief’, summarising and discussing the implications of their findings for policy makers and wildlife managers. Their recommendations include stricter regulation aimed at preventing parakeet introductions, rapid response when emerging populations are detected and better dissemination of information to the public about the impact parakeets can have. For example, using bird feeders that parakeets cannot access may help reduce the abundance of these birds in cities.

Prof. Jim Groombridge of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of Kent (UK) comments:

“What should be done to minimise damage by invasive parakeets is ultimately up to policy-makers. But as scientists, we stress that our work again highlights that the best way to combat invasive species is to prevent their introduction and spread. Parakeet populations have already been successfully removed, for example, from islands such as the Seychelles, demonstrating that it is possible to stop them when prompt and decisive action is taken by governments. For the already established and large parakeet populations that can be found across parts of Europe, there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to the problems they may locally pose. More applied research is needed to find cost-effective and acceptable methods to reduce parakeet impacts in those areas where they do cause damage”.

The nanday parakeet (Aratinga nenday), also known as the black-hooded parakeet, is a species native to South America.
Photo by ParrotNet.

###

Original source:

White RL, Strubbe D, Dallimer M, Davies ZG, Davis AJS, Edelaar P, Groombridge J, Jackson HA, Menchetti M, Mori E, Nikolov BP, Pârâu LG, Pečnikar ZF, Pett TJ, Reino L, Tollington S, Turbé A, Shwartz A (2019) Assessing the ecological and societal impacts of alien parrots in Europe using a transparent and inclusive evidence-mapping scheme. NeoBiota 48: 45-69. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.48.34222

###

The ParrotNet Policy Brief can be downloaded from: https://www.kent.ac.uk/parrotnet/policybrief/.

New moth in Europe: A southern hemisphere species now resident in Portugal

As travelling in the 21st century is easier than ever, so is for species to make their way to new areas, sometimes increasing their distributional range, or even establishing whole new habitats. On the other hand, when they leave their natural predators and competitors behind, and find abundance of suitable resources somewhere else, they are running the risk of becoming invasive.

Nevertheless, such is not the case of a small, darkish brown moth from the southern hemisphere that is now resident in central Portugal. There, the species do not exhibit invasive behaviour, and so far has been only observed in very low numbers. The discovery is published in the open access journal Nota Lepidopterologica by an international research team, led by Martin Corley, CIBIO-InBIO, Portugal.

In 2012, Jorge Rosete, one of the co-authors of the study, spotted a female specimen that he could not identify near his house. When Martin took a look at it, he placed it in the concealer moth family (Oecophoridae), but was unable to recognise neither its species, nor its genus. It did not took long before a few more specimens were found, including males.

Initially, Martin thought the moth might originate from Australia, given the abundance of eucalyptus plantations in the area where it was found, and the fact that there are more concealer moth species in Australia than on any other continent. However, despite their efforts and contacts with other researchers, they failed to find an Australian species to match the Portuguese specimens. As a result, the mystery remained for the next four years, until a molecular study into moth DNA pulled the curtains.

A fragment of DNA, also called DNA barcode, matched three other genetically identical unnamed specimens, originally collected from South Africa, in the DNA database BOLD. Further collaboration with Alexander Lvovsky, Russian Academy of Sciences, allowed the assignation of the specimens to a species name: Borkhausenia intumescens, known from South Africa. However, it did not end there. Further research into museum collections showed that in fact this species had been previously described from Argentina as Borkhausenia crimnodes, and therefore should be named as such.

The origin of the Portuguese specimens remain a mystery, but it is evident that the species is now established in central Portugal. The larvae of other species in the same genus feed on decomposed plants, so this is likely the case with the moth species as well. It might be that it has entered the country through Figueira da Foz port along with imported timber from South America intended for the paper industry.

It is not known if this is a South African species that had first been transported to South America, and then – to Portugal, or if it is originally South American. It is also possible that it is not native in neither of these areas, and instead originates from another country, where it has not even been discovered yet. The moth favours warm temperate zones and potentially might appear anywhere in the world with suitable climate.

###

Original source:

Corley MFV, Ferreira S, Lvovsky AL, Rosete J (2017) Borkhausenia crimnodes Meyrick, 1912 (Lepidoptera, Oecophoridae), a southern hemisphere species resident in Portugal. Nota Lepidopterologica 40(1): 15-24. https://doi.org/10.3897/nl.40.10938.