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UA researchers join the fight against two exotic beetle species invading some Mediterranean areas

These beetles drill tunnels in trees and young shrubs, causing branches - and even the entire tree - to dry up and die

SAMFIX project, co-financed by the European Commission, Spain, Italy and France aims to protect over 42,100 hectares of forest included in the Natura 2000 Network



Alicante, Thursday 15 November 2018

Since 2011, experts in forest entomology have been detecting the damage caused by two invasive species of beetles -Xylosandrus compactus and Xylosandrus craussiusculus- in forests and natural parks in Italy and France.   As for the Iberian Peninsula, attacks were identified for the first time in 2016, on some carob trees in Valencia within El Pla de les Clotxes residential area, in Benifaió, and near El Tello Municipal Natural Park (Llombai).

These Coleoptera drill tunnels through young branches and tree trunks where they cultivate symbiotic fungi, known as ragweed mushrooms, on which they feed.  The attacked plants show symptoms such as wilting, dying branches, branch rupture and general decay.  Only in Valencia, drying twigs has been recorded, as well as dead branches and even the death of the whole carob tree, although without diminishing their regrowth capacity.

In order to protect more than 42,100 hectares of forest in the Mediterranean area included in the Natura 2000 network, researchers from Spain, Italy and France have joined the SAMFIX project (SAving Mediterranean Forests from Invasions of Xylosandrus beetles and associated pathogenic fungi), co-financed by the European Commission through the LIFE Programme.

Coordinated by the entity responsible for the Circeo National Park (Italy), an area infected by these exotic species, the seven partners involved in the project intend to establish effective protocols for prevention, early warning and rapid response to eradicate or stop the current invasions of these beetles, as well as to prevent future expansions.  These protocols will be tested in six areas of Europe located in Italy, France and Spain.

As explained by the coordinator of the Spanish team and researcher of the University of Alicante Department of Ecology Diego Gallego, “trapping networks will be installed in protected natural areas of the three countries in March 2019.  In particular, we will place them in the Municipal Natural Park of El Tello (Valencia) in Spain”. These traps will constitute warning networks for new infestations and will serve to develop eradication/restraint protocols. "Intensive surveillance tasks carried out by the park staff, participating scientists, as well as other interested parties, will be part of the tasks developed," UA researcher stated. 

In this sense, one of the SAMFIX project’s main focus is to promote citizen science actions by raising awareness and encouraging the participation of citizens in inspection field visits.  In fact, a number of training sessions have been scheduled for managers of Natural Spaces, environmental agents, phytosanitary inspectors and owners plant nurseries, orchard and gardens for the recognition of symptoms caused by Xylosandrus and the use of monitoring traps.

“Other than developing traps and catching devices to capture both species, we are working on a platform for data storage and analysis and an App for Smartphone that can be used by the institutions and agents involved in the affected areas,” Diego Gallego said.

With all this, besides protecting habitats of community interest, as Gallego explained, they want to reduce by 80% the population of Xylosandrus invasive species in the invaded areas and prevent expansion to other areas after 2020.


Project partners

Together with the SAMFIX coordinator, the Circeo National Park in Italy, and the University of Alicante, the project’s partners include the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) in France and the city of Antibes Juan-les-Pins, the University of the Tuscia, the Regional Directorate for Environment and Natural Systems of the Lazio Region in Italy, and the environmental consultant TERRASYSTEM SRL (Italy).

The University of Alicante work team, coordinated by Diego Gallego, is made up by Department of Ecology researchers Susana Bautista and Andreu Bonet, as well as Estefanía Micó, from the CIBIO University Research Institute, with the collaboration of the Valencia Region Forest Management Service.


Reference: “First record of the Granulate Ambrosia Beetle, Xylosandrus crassiusculus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae), in the Iberian Peninsula”, Zootaxa (2017).



Images: (1) Holes in the wood caused by invasive species in carob, (2) dust chains emerging from the holes, (3) and early warning traps. Author: Diego Gallego.

Species Xylosandrus crassiusculus.  Author: Carlos Pastor (top image)




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