Pine pests on the Turks and Caicos Islands
Scientists are studying the insects causing the decline of the Caribbean pine on Turks and Caicos and searching for chemical markers for unhealthy trees.
Pine trees on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are under threat from environmental stresses that include disturbance, water shortage and invasive insect pests. A collaborative project between the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTS) team at Kew and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) in TCI is collecting insect samples for identification by entomologists at the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), UK.
The most serious pest of these pines is the scale insect known as pine tortoise scale, Toumeyella parvicornis. An article by Malumphy et al. (2012) has recently been published reporting on the devastating impact of this invasive pest in TCI. Working with the Bahamas National Trust the UKOTS team have observed that pines in the Bahamas also suffer environmental stress due to human activity, but are relatively healthy compared to the trees in TCI. Although T. parvicornis has not yet been detected in the Bahamas, several other pests, including other scale insects, are known to be attacking the pines.
Can changes in the chemistry of pines be used as an early indicator of tree health?
The team have also collected samples of Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis from the Bahamas and TCI and these were extracted in solvent to compare their chemical composition.
Preliminary data suggest that the chemical fingerprints of healthy and unhealthy trees are different, possibly due to more significant environmental upheaval in TCI. Differences between the chemistry of healthy and unhealthy pines could identify compounds that protect healthy Bahaman trees from insect attack.
Item from Martin Hamilton (UKOTS Programme Co-ordinator, RBG Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 40
Malumphy, C., Hamilton, M. A., Manco, B. N., Green, P. W. C., Sanchez, M. D., Corcoran, M. & Salamanca, E. (2012). Toumeyella parvicornis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), causing severe decline of Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Florida Entomologist 95, 113-119 [open access]
UKOTs blog - 'Monitoring the effect of an invasive pine scale insect on the national tree of the Turks and Caicos Islands' by Sara Green
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