The Polyphagous Shothole Borer (PSHB) outbreak in South Africa is the largest geographical outbreak of this beetle in the world. It is affecting trees in all sectors: the agricultural and commercial forestry sector, urban trees (public spaces, streets, gardens), as well as native trees in natural forests. Over the past year or more, researchers at FABI had been in contact with senior academics from seven universities in relation to PSHB research. From these engagements a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary research network evolved. At present we are aware of 16 research projects on PSHB conducted by Honours, Masters and PhD students, research fellows and postdoctoral fellows, that are overseen by altogether 17 supervisors from the different universities.
The PSHB Research Network was established at a meeting of these researchers in May 2019 at FABI. The aims and strategies of the PSHB Research Network are as follows:
- To align and coordinate all research efforts by bona fide researchers from academic institutions in South Africa. This is to make sure that expertise and resources are utilized to the maximum in order to answer the most important research questions related to PSHB and its fungal symbionts.
- To provide science- and data-based advice to all stakeholders in government and private sectors.
- To effectively communicate new research findings related to PHSB among network members and to stakeholders and the public.
- To leverage funding. By showing that research projects form part of a well-structured, coherent research programme, more funding opportunities should become available.