Every year, new alien species of insects and fungi invade European forests. Some of them are exotic pests and diseases that can affect the survival and growth of trees.
To help develop strategies for monitoring and managing these non-native forest pests, a consortium of over 50 scientists representing 23 research institutions and 15 countries from across the globe joined their skills in the Horizon 2020 project HOMED “Holistic management of emerging forest pests and diseases.”
Between 2018 and 2022, the HOMED consortium developed a full panel of scientific knowledge and practical solutions to better deal with emerging native and alien invasive pests and diseases.
This includes targeting the successive phases of invasion, and developing innovative methods for each phase: risk analysis, prevention/detection, surveillance, eradication/containment, and control.
To share the results of this cooperation and help researchers further improve the management of emerging forest pests and pathogens, HOMED has made the main outcomes of its research publically available.
They are now published in a special issue in the open-access journal NeoBiota, called “Conceptual and technical innovations to better manage invasions of alien pests and pathogens in forests”. The issue comprises 16 articles on various aspects of the ecology and management of invasive alien insects and fungal pathogens in Europe’s forests.
“Because forests provide irreplaceable goods and materials for people and the European economy, because maintaining healthy forests is essential for their contribution to climate change mitigation through sequestration and storage of atmospheric carbon, it is urgent to develop more effective protective measures against the ever-increasing threat of invasive forest pests,” the editors of the special issue write in an editorial.
More tools are needed that can help identify, prevent and monitor invasive alien species and improve early warning methods, which makes the research in this issue so crucial and timely.
“The role of researchers is to develop, test and promote the most relevant methods and tools at each stage of the invasion framework, i.e., for the early detection of these invasive alien organisms, for the identification of the species and for the monitoring of their damage and spread, but also for new eradication and control solutions,” the editors continue.
One highlight in the published research is a study exploring how using the methods of citizen science at schools can increase invasive species awareness. Another explores the efficiency of artificial intelligence in pest detection.
“The publications collected in this special issue demonstrate that current conceptual, methodological, and technological advances allow a great progress in the anticipation, monitoring and management of invasive pest species in forests,” the editors conclude.
The latest issue published in African Invertebrates is a special one: it honours the career and achievements of South African entomologist Dr Jason G. H. Londt. In celebration of Londt’s prolific and inspiring work, the issue was published to coincide with his 80th birthday in 2023.
For more than 50 years, Londt has made a notable impact on South African and international entomology, collecting large numbers of Diptera and other insect orders. He has made outstanding contributions to the entomological research on flies, especially assassin or robber flies (Diptera, Asilidae), on hangingflies (Mecoptera, Bittacidae), and field collections of insects, primarily in South Africa.
Throughout his career, he has described more species of Afrotropical Asilidae and Bittacidae (Mecoptera) than any other author.
“Today, some 952 Asilidae species are recognised from southern Africa and thanks to Jason’s exceptional collecting efforts and detailed revisionary taxonomic publications these species can be easily identified,“ write African Invertebrates editors John Midgley and Torsten Dikow in the editorial to the Festschrift.
The Festschrift includes nine articles celebrating Dr Londt’s career by authors from three continents, covering the broad contributions that he has made to Afrotropical entomology. It also introduces five new species described in his honour, one hangingfly and four true flies.
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The three most important taxonomic ranks used to classify organisms are family, genus and species, especially the latter two, which make up the scientific binomials used to communicate about biodiversity, and indeed about all aspects of biology. While the description of a new plant family is now a very rare event, the same is not true for genera. Indeed, delimitation of genera within many plant families remains in a state of considerable flux, because many traditionally recognized genera do not correspond to evolutionary groups. This causes unwelcome instability in scientific names of species and is why work to delimit genera lies at the heart of much current research in systematic botany.
This is very much the case for subfamily Caesalpinioideae, the second largest subfamily of the legume family, which is the focus of this new special issue of the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PhytoKeys. With around 4,600 species of mostly trees, shrubs and lianas, distributed right across the tropics in rainforests, dry forests and savannas, Caesalpinioideae represent a spectacularly diverse lineage of tropical woody plants.
New analyses of DNA sequences of 420 species of Caesalpinioideae presented herereveal that 22 of the 152 currently recognized genera do not coincide with natural evolutionary groups, i.e., in phylogenetic terms, they are non-monophyletic. The aim of this special issue is to re-define as many of these problematic genera as possible in order to bring them into line with natural evolutionary lineages. To achieve this, nine new genera of Caesalpinioideae are described, five previously recognized genera are resurrected, and three genera shown to be nested within other genera are consigned to synonymy.
Many of the species in these new genera are important, conspicuous, ecologically abundant, and, in some cases, geographically widespread trees in tropical forests. For example, the three species of the new genus Osodendron are important large canopy trees in tropical rain forests and riverine gallery forests across a broad swathe of west and central Africa. In recent decades these species have been successively placed in different genera including Cathormion, Samanea and Albizia, among others. The neglected generic placement of these African trees has finally been resolved via analyses of DNA sequences, and a new generic home for them has been established.
In contrast, two of the genera newly described in this special issue, Mezcala and Boliviadendron, each with just a single species, are much more elusive plants occupying very narrowly restricted geographical ranges. Mezcala occurs across just a few square km of the central Balsas Depression in south-central Mexico and Boliviadendron is known from just two interior valleys of the Bolivian Andes. Establishing these two lineages as distinct genera highlights the importance of conserving these globally rare evolutionary lineages.
Choosing names for new taxa is one of the delights and privileges of the practising taxonomist. Derivations of the names of the nine new genera described in this special issue span features of the plants themselves and the locations where they grow, as well as names of fellow legume researchers honoured with genera named in recognition of their contributions. For example, Osodendron is named after ‘Oso’ a food that is prepared in West Africa from seeds of one of the species now placed in the new genus. Mezcala is named for the indigenous Mezcala culture of the Balsas region in Mexico where the genus is found. Boliviadendron is named as such because it is a tree that grows in Bolivia and nowhere else. The new genus name Heliodendron is derived from the Greek helios (sun) and dendron (tree) because it grows in the sunshine state of Queensland in Australia and its flowers are arranged in sun-like globose heads.
Finally, Naiadendron celebrates the Brazilian Amazon where the genus grows, and the famous German botanist Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794–1868), who named the Brazilian Amazon after the Naiads, Greek mythology’s nymphs of freshwater.
Four of the genera newly described in this Special Issue are named after prominent contemporary legume taxonomists, three women and one man: Gretheria for Rosaura Grether, a Mexican specialist on the genus Mimosa, Ricoa for Lourdes Rico, another Mexican botanist who worked on legumes based at Kew, Marlimorimia, in honour of Marli Pires Morim of the Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in recognition of her contributions to the taxonomy of mimosoid legumes, and Gwilymia named for Gwilym Lewis, in honour of one of the world’s most experienced and productive legume taxonomists who is legume research leader in the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
One of the central achievements of the work on Caesalpinioideae presented in this Special Issue is that for the first time a truly pantropical analysis of this large group of plants has been accomplished. A global synthesis is essential to work out how many genera there are.
For example, by sampling across Asia, Africa, Madagascar, North and South America, it has become clear that the Old World species of the important pantropical genus Albizia are not closely related to Albizia in the Americas, prompting splitting of the genus and resurrection of the name Pseudalbizziafor the New World species. All elements of the former Albizia – the last so-called ‘dustbin’ genus in the mimosoid legumes – are accounted for in this special issue (here, here and here). Similarly, the genus Prosopis, one of the most important silvopastoral tree genera of the dryland tropics, has traditionally encompassed elements spanning the New and Old Worlds that are here shown to comprise four distinct evolutionary lineages, two in the Old World and two in the Americas, here treated as four separate genera.
Changes to the scientific names of species are not always immediately welcomed by users, but over time, establishment of a classification that is based on robust evidence about evolutionary history will result in greater nomenclatural stability and in named taxa that are aligned with natural groups and hence biologically more informative. This special issue, reshaping the generic system of a species-rich group of legumes, is an important step towards that goal.
Photo credits: Globimar Pereira-Silva, Steen Christensen, William Hawthorne, Colin Hughes, Luciano de Queiroz, Marcelo Simon.
The latest volume devoted to one of the most intriguing beetle families also marks a turning point for the entomologists sharing special fondness for the leaf beetles. While the “spiritus rector” of the Chrysomelidae research community, Prof Pierre Jolivet resigned from his position last year, now Dr Jorge Santiago-Blay is also stepping down from the editorial board.
The third of the original trio, Prof Michael Schmitt, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität, takes the opportunity to look back to the beginning of the community and pay tribute to his long-year colleagues in his Editorial. He also confirms that the series, by now traditionally published in the open access journal ZooKeys, is far from over.
“I thank Jorge Santiago-Blay from the bottom of my heart for his tireless engagement in fostering leaf beetle research and his friendship, and wish him All the Best for whatever he may entertain in the future,” read his words.
In his short publication accompanying the five-piece issue, Prof Michael Schmitt recalls the very beginning of his team’s existence, started in 2001. He does not omit to note the numerous obstacles surrounding the first issues. At a point, having completed the enormous book “The green book – New Developments in the Biology of the Chrysomelidae”, comprising 62 chapters by 111 authors, as well as the first two volumes of Research on Chrysomelidae, they were made to drop the series due to unsatisfying selling numbers.
However, everything changed after the conversation Prof Pierre Jolivet and Prof Lyubomir Penev, Pensoft Publishers, had at the 9th European Congress of Entomology, held in Hungary in 2010. There they agreed to publish the next Research on Chrysomelidae volume as a special issue in ZooKeys, one of Pensoft’s journals.
“The present volume is the fourth, but certainly not the last, published by Pensoft. Although the pullout of Pierre Jolivet and Jorge Santiago-Blay marks a crucial cut in the history of Research on Chrysomelidae, I understand the reasons of their decision to step down,” concludes Prof Michael Schmitt. “I hope and wish that the series will prosper and remain accepted as a forum of leaf beetle research by the community of Chrysomelidae enthusiasts all over the world.”
Research on Chrysomelidae 6 Special Issue is available to read and order from here.
Schmitt M (2016) Editorial. In: Jolivet P, Santiago-Blay J, Schmitt M (Eds) Research on Chrysomelidae 6. ZooKeys 597: 1-2. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.597.8618