Guam – Invasive or non-native species have almost wiped out a cultural icon. A native plant known in Chamoru as the Fadang is on the brink of extinction. This native plant has been attacked by several different invasive bugs.
“According to research that is being done by Dr. Tom Marler who is a botanist here at the university he says that the Fadang is still disappearing and he expects to see the last one in the field by 2019 unless we can do something about it,” said UOG entomologist Dr. Aubrey Moore adding, “Fadang used to be our predominant tree sized plant in Guam’s forest that’s from a forestry survey done in 2002 but now we’ve lost 90 percent of them already.”
The Fadang is a native plant that the Chamorus once used to make tatiyas (tortillas). It is an endemic species of cycad which means its a strain of cycad that can only be found on Guam. Several invasive species have ganged up on the Fadang nearly wiping it out but the first thing that attacked it was the Asian cycad scale. “2003 is when we found the first cycad scales on Guam and before that this plant was one of the best plants on Guam it evolved here it knows how to handle Guam’s conditions it’s drought resistant it’s typhoon resistant but that’s all changed now,” explained Dr. Moore.
So how did this invasive Asian cycad scale get to Guam? Well, they’re not entirely sure but the first ones were discovered in Tumon. “Those scale insects were not found in the forest they were found in front of a couple hotels on island. Remember, back in those days every hotel had a nice display of cycads the Fadang is our native cycad but they also had some imported ornamental cycads those displays are all gone now and from the hotel area the cycad scale spread out into the boonies and that’s where it’s doing the major major damage,” said Dr. Moore.
So what is being done to stop the destruction of fadang? Well, Dr. Moore says they’ve brought in a ladybug from Hawaii that only eats the cycad scale. The idea is that this ladybug will eat the scales keeping their population down and keeping the scales from wiping out the Fadang.
However, there is also a caterpillar, leaf minor, and a beetle that are all attacking the Fadang as well. Ninety percent of the population has already been wiped out and at this rate they could be extinct in as little as 8 years.