Mr Allan Gonzalez
|Wilhelm de Beer|
My project is on the impact the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (Euwallaceae fornicatus) is having on indigenous forests of Kwazulu-Natal. The PSHB is thought to have entered the country around 2012 or earlier. This ambrosia beetle has been found to bore into living trees and cause Fusarium wilt in many species of trees in urban, agricultural, and natural settings. Because it is a recent introduction, not much is known about the species it prefers, or how it spreads through the urban, agricultural, and natural matrix. This project will focus on the beetles' impact in natural settings of Kwazulu Natal.
An example of a different ambrosia beetle invasion is the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) in the Southeastern USA. It has killed over 300 million redbay trees since its introduction into the USA in 2002. The beetle has a fungal associate, Raffaelea lauricola, that is the true killer of the redbay trees. This has changed the community composition and ecology of the forests, as it has killed most of the canopy redbay. The implications of this for fauna and ecosystem functions are still to be determined.
Understanding how the PSHB is invading forests in Kwazulu-Natal is important so we can better protect the indigenous forests there. Tree species as well as habitat types that are highly susceptible are to be identified in this project. This information will be available to the public for land managers, forest owners, and municipalities to see and use.
I come from the USA and worked as a lab manager in Jiri Hulcr’s forest entomology lab. There I was exposed to many ideas and techniques about the life of bark and ambrosia beetles as well as ways to manage collections. My main interest is in ecology and understanding natural systems, especially community ecology. Insights on the way exotic species invade natural settings and finding ways to mitigate their impact also piques my interests. I enjoy photography and the use of it for science communication.