An investigation into the death of native Virgilia trees in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa

Machingambi, Netsai (2013-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa is well-recognised for exceptionally high plant species diversity and endemism. However, little attention has been bestowed on the pests and pathogens in this region, even though these may greatly influence plant distribution and evolution. In this study we identify various arthropods and fungi as pests and diseasecausing organisms of the ecologically and economically important CFR-endemic tree taxa of Virgilia. We isolated, identified and determined the pathogenicity of key fungal taxa from diseased Virgilia trees throughout the CFR. In addition we evaluated the role of possible pest arthropod taxa, including bark beetles, phoretic mites, larvae of a cerambycid beetle and larvae of the endemic Leto venus (ghost moth), in the death of Virgilia trees. Key fungal taxa were identified by comparisons of the internal transcribed spacer rDNA regions of the isolated taxa with those available on GenBank. Pathogenicity of the most commonly encountered fungal taxa was determined both in the field and under greenhouse conditions. Five different disease symptoms were observed on Virgilia trees throughout the CFR. At Table Mountain, Virgilia oroboides subsp. oroboides showed symptoms of: (1) several small cankers on stems, seemingly caused by a Fusarium acuminatum-like fungus, (2) a root rot disease caused by Armillaria mellea and (3) small bracket fungi on stems associated with Schizophyllum commune. Virgilia oroboides from the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden was diagnosed with a root disease consistently associated with an un-described Phomopsis species. Virgilia oroboides subsp. ferruginea and V. divaricata from Knysna and the Tsitsikamma area often showed symptoms of rapid wilting and death. The Virgilia stems were damaged by the tunnelling larvae of the ghost moth and those of an unidentified cerambycid beetle. Galleries and the surrounding wood tissues often housed the ophiostomatoid fungi Ceratocystis tsitsikammensis and Ophiostoma plurianulatum. These seem to originate from nitidulid beetles found feeding on gum exudate. Pathogenicity trials confirmed the virulence of the undescribed Phomopsis species, the F. acuminatum-like fungus, S. commune and C. tsitsikammensis to Virgilia. All four morpho-species of bark beetles found in this study, together with phoretic mites on two of the beetle morphospecies, were only collected from dead and dying Virgilia hosts and were classified as secondary pests. Both beetle taxa and mites commonly carried spores of various Geosmithia spp. These are not pathogenic to Virgilia trees, but may be an important food source for the bark beetles, as it dominated the fungal community in galleries. The phoretic mites were unable to feed on their Geosmithia associates, but have been observed to feed on dead bark beetle larvae within galleries. This suggests that the relationship of bark beetles, mites and their associated Geosmithia species in this system is complex and in need of further study. Our results show that natural populations of Virgilia play host to numerous destructive pathogens, some of which are non-native (e.g. A. mellea) and a cause for special concern. Additionally, the isolation of the undescribed Phomopsis species and A. mellea from botanical gardens, with A. mellea now spreading to natural areas, calls for stricter control over the movement of organic material from these areas.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Kaapse Floristiese Streek (KFS) van Suid-Afrika is bekend vir buitengewoon hoë plantspesie-diversiteit en endemisme. Min aandag is egter tot dusver geskenk aan die peste en patogene in hierdie streek, al mag hulle plantverspreiding en evolusie dramaties beinvloed. In hierdie studie identifiseer ons verskeie geleedpotige diere en fungi as peste en organismes wat siektes veroorsaak in die ekologies en ekonomies belangrike, KFS-endemiese boom genus Virgilia. Ons het die sleutel fungi vanaf Virgilia oor die hele KFS geisoleer, geidentifiseer en hulle patogeniteit bepaal. Addisioneel het ons ook die rol van moontlike pes geleedpotiges, insluitende baskewers, cerambycid kewerlarwes en die endemiese Leto venus (spookmot) in die dood van Virgilia bome geevalueer. Sleutel fungi taksa is geidentifiseer deur die interne getranskribeerde spasieerder rDNS streke van die geisoleerde taksa met die wat op GenBank beskikbaar was te vergelyk. Patogenisiteit van die mees algemeen geisoleerde fungi taxa is beide in die veld en onder glashuis-toestande bepaal. Vyf verskillende siekte simptome is by Virgilia bome regdeur die KFS waargeneem. By Tafelberg het Virgilia oroboides subsp. oroboides simptome getoon van: (1) verskeie klein kankers op stamme, blykbaar veroorsaak deur ‘n Fusarium acuminatum-agtige fungus, (2) ‘n wortelvrot siekte veroorsaak deur Armillaria mellea en (3) klein rakswamme op stamme geassosieer met Schizophyllum commune. Virgilia oroboides in die Harold Porter Nationale Botaniese Tuin is gediagnoseer met ‘n wortelvrot siekte wat altyd met ‘n onbeskryfde Phomopsis spesie geassosieer is. Virgilia oroboides subsp. ferruginea and V. divaricata van Knysna en die Tsitsikamma area het dikwels simptome getoon van vinnige verwelking en dood. Die Virgilia stamme is deur die tonnelende larwes van die spookmot en dié van ‘n ongeidentifiseerde cerambycid kewer beskadig. Galerye en die omringende houtweefsel het dikwels die ophiostomatoid fungi Ceratocystis tsitsikammensis en Ophiostoma plurianulatum gehuisves. Dit lyk asof hierdie fungi van nitidulid kewers afkomstig is wat op die gomuitskeidings gevoed het. Patogeniteitsproewe het die kwaadaardigheid van die onbeskryfde Phomopsis spesie, die F. acuminatum-agtige fungus, S. commune en C. tsitsikammensis teenoor Virgilia bevestig. Al vier morfo-spesies baskewer wat in hierdie studie gevind is, sowel as die foretiese myte op twee van die kewer morfo-spesies, is slegs van dooie of sterwende Virgilia gashere versamel, en is as sekondêre peste geklassifiseer. Beide kewerspesies en myt taksa het algemeen spore van verskeie Geosmithia spesies (Geosmithia pallida, G. flava, G. microcorthyli, G. sp. 1 en G. sp. 2) gedra. Die Geosmithia spesies is nie patogenies teenoor Virgilia bome nie, maar mag ‘n belangrike voedselbron vir die baskewers wees, aangesien dit die fungus-gemeenskap in die galarye gedomineer het. Die foretiese myte was nie instaat om op Geosmithia-assosiate te voed nie, maar is waargeneem om op dooie baskewer larwes te voed binne die galerye. Dit stel voor dat die verhouding van die baskewers, myte en hulle geassosieerde Geosmithia spesies in die sisteem kompleks is, en verdere studie benodig. Ons resultate dui aan dat natuurlike populasies van Virgilia gashere is vir verskeie destruktiewe patogene, sommige waarvan nieinheems (bv. A. mellea) wat ‘n bron van groot kommer is. Verder noodsaak die isolasie van die Phomopsis spesie en A. mellea, wat beide wortelvrot siektes in botaniese tuine veroorsaak, strenger kontrole oor die verskuiwing van organiese materiaal uit hierdie areas, veral gegewe dat A. mellea reeds na natuurlike areas versprei het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/79902
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