On the 8th of May, members of the Task Force Ophraella met at the Milano University Bicocca to coordinate all the field work to assess risks and benefits of the establishment of the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa for the coming months. The 15 attendees from Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia agreed on protocols for new experiments, and all practical implementations including collaborative efforts. The Task Force can now confidently start the planned surveys, and the 13 experiments at 12 different locations of this summer.
The Task Force Ophraella met on 11 and 12 April 2015 in the area where the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa has established. On a joint field trip in the Milano area, they found egg batches on seedlings of Ambrosia artemisiifolia. By sweep netting they collected female and male beetles, brought to the University of Fribourg to start a new rearing in the quarantaine facilities.
Next day, the Task Force was hosted by the Museum of Natural History in Lugano, Switzerland. Members exchanged results obtained in 2014, and the invited speaker Yuya Fukano from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology updated them about the status quo of the work on Ophraella communa in Japan. Several Task Force members initiated new collaborative experiments starting in 2015.
One of the aims of WG1 and the Task Force Ophraella is to assess the potential impact of candidate biocontrol agents of Ambrosia. We will do this by coupling demographic models of the biocontrol agents (insects) with those of the plant, developed by the Task Force Population Dynamics. Such a model would be of a high practical value to predict the interactions between both species and their spread over Europe.
To design the experiments needed to parameterise the models, several SMARTER members and modelling expert Yvonne Buckley met in March 2015 in Sheffield, UK, where they also presented the project in the symposium ‘Demography beyond the Population’, organized by the British Ecological Society (download the poster presentation here).
We specifically discussed the case of the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa, and its impact on Ambrosia artemisiifolia. We designed experiments that will be carried out in Northern Italy, starting in May 2015, and agreed on a STSM of Benno Augustinus (CABI, Switzerland) to Eelke Jongejans (Nijmegen, Netherlands) in April 2015.
On 30 March 2015, the second meeting of the Task Force Population Dynamics was kindly hosted by the BOKU University (Vienna, Austria). The Task force has grown to 26 teams monitoring the demography of ragweed populations according to our standardized protocols from France to Armenia, in all important habitats of Ambrosia. Over 20 team captains were represented at the meeting, and had the premiere to wear the freshly produced SMARTER shirts.
All presented their sites, and their experiences with monitoring in 2014. Three researchers presented a first analysis of the joint demographic data set from all these populations: Suzanne Lommen on the plant performance, Melinda Leitsch-Vitalos on the soil seed bank, and Caspar Hallmann on a demographical model using such data. The Task Force then agreed on some modifications of the protocol, and finally created a roadmap on how to include new participants and regions that are still missing to cover the entire European continent.
Summer 2014, a television crew visited the University of Fribourg research facilities in Switzerland, and two field sites in Italy where an international team led by Heinz Müller-Schärer has been investigating the effects of the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa.
Watch the resulting movies that were broadcast on the popular science shows Nano (Switzerland) or Einstein (Austria, Germany, Switzerland). The potential benefits for the control of ragweed, and the potential risks for other plant species are presented.
The movies are in German, but you can anyway enjoy the images of flying beetles and Ambrosia pollen without understanding the spoken words! The websites contain additional interviews on the Ambrosia problem.