An Assessment of the Potential Economic Impacts of the Invasive Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in South Africa

J Econ Entomol. 2022 Aug 10;115(4):1076-1086. doi: 10.1093/jee/toac061.


Studies addressing the economic impacts of invasive alien species are biased towards ex-post assessments of the costs and benefits of control options, but ex-ante assessments are also required to deal with potentially damaging invaders. The polyphagous shot hole borer Euwallacea fornicatus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is a recent and potentially damaging introduction to South Africa. We assessed the potential impact of this beetle by working across economic and biological disciplines and developing a simulation model that included dynamic mutualistic relations between the beetle and its symbiotic fungus. We modeled the potential growth in beetle populations and their effect on the net present cost of damage to natural forests, urban trees, commercial forestry, and the avocado industry over 10 yr. We modeled high, baseline, and low scenarios using discount rates of 8, 6, and 4%, and a plausible range of costs and mortality rates. Models predicted steady growth in the beetle and fungus populations, leading to average declines in tree populations of between 3.5 and 15.5% over 10 yr. The predicted net present cost was 18.45 billion international dollars (Int. $), or about 0.66% of the country's GDP for our baseline scenario ($2.7 billion to $164 billion for low and high scenarios). Most of the costs are for the removal of urban trees that die as a result of the beetle and its fungal symbiont, as has been found in other regions. We conclude that an ex-ante economic assessment system dynamics model can be useful for informing national strategies on invasive alien species management.

Keywords: Euwallacea fornicatus; Ambrosia beetle; biological invasion; economic assessment; ex-ante decision support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coleoptera* / microbiology
  • Forestry
  • Introduced Species
  • South Africa
  • Trees
  • Weevils*