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Biological control could be the key to saving one of Britain’s rarest birds from extinction

Saving Tristan’s only native tree and its associated unique buntings

Invasive non-native species are a major threat on oceanic islands due to their vulnerability and endemism, typical of island ecosystems. On Tristan da Cunha, a remote group of islands in the South Atlantic, Brown soft scale, (Coccus hesperidum), an invasive alien scale insect, has infested Tristan’s only native tree, Phylica arborea; and is now threatening the extinction of one of Britain’s rarest bird species, Nesospiza buntings. There is, therefore, an urgent need to find an appropriate method to mitigate the impact of the scale insects and prevent the total collapse of the Phylica forest. The aim of this project is to select and safely test suitable biocontrol agents to reduce scale numbers below a damaging threshold and safeguard Tristan’s endemic buntings.

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