Invasion Biology of the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle (Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff)
Laurel wilt disease (LWD), which is carried by redbay ambrosia beetle (RAB), is caused by the fungal pathogen Raffaelea lauricola, and is deadly to North American laurels (Family Lauraceae). Since establishment, LWD has rapidly spread in redbay trees (Persea borbonia) throughout the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. More recently, extensive sassafras (Sassafras albidum) mortality in inland areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi indicate that laurel wilt disease is not restricted to coastlines. Sassafras occurs well into southern Ontario, Canada, and it is likely that laurel wilt disease will be spread throughout RAB’s distribution in eastern North America. The distribution of RAB will likely be limited only by its cold tolerance, and its distribution is likely to expand with climate change, but little is known about RAB’s thermal physiology. The goal for this project is to develop spatial models of RAB invasion potential to provide an estimate of the eventual range and scope of LWD in North America. This will be accomplished by quantifying chill injury and modeling those data alongside both historical climactic data and projected climate change scenarios. The number of species at risk - more than a dozen tree and shrub species are likely to be severely impacted - and their ecological services and wildlife value make this potentially the most ecologically destructive non-native forest insect invasion to date.