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Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

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Specialists from the Institute of Animal Systematics i and Ecology, RAS SB, visited Kazakhstan in the summer 2006 in order to study the locust and biological methods of control of these agricultural pests. Valentina Sadykova, correspondent of Science in Siberia newspaper, discussed the results of this expedition, carried out within the framework of Russian-Kazakh Project, with Viktor Glupov, Head of the Institute, and Vyacheslav Mordkovich, Head of Siberian Zoological Museum.

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The scientists explored the entire Kazakh area of low, rounded, isolated hills*, lakes Balkhash and Alakol, visited the Dzhungar and Zaili Ala Tau. Some of these regions are little studied by biologists. It was therefore very important to collect information on the levels, composition, structure, and ecological role of biological variety in these regions and to supplement the collection of the museum - the information center point on the diversity of Siberian fauna (and the adjacent territories), possessing a complete basic collection of reference species.

Aridization (drying of ecosystems due to global and local warming) is significant for the existence of animals. As a result, for example, for our southern neighbors, forest fires become more frequent, the lakes become more shallow (including Aral, Balkhash, Chany, Ubinskoye, etc.), while more and more water has to be taken from these lakes for watering the plants, and the trees near the lakes have to be cut out.

Kazakhstan and Russia are located at approximately the same meridians, as if continuing each other from North to South, and represent a latitudinal-zonal series, and therefore they represent a sort of a demonstrative area for the study of this negative process. It started earlier and is more active in Kazakhstan: the species of the insects "formers" and "destroyers" of the plant community (locust, Colorado potato beetle, meadow moth, etc.) and the pattern of functioning of ecosystems are changing. Therefore, one of the purposes of the expedition was to predict and, if possible, to prevent such phenomena in Siberia. For example, when the density of wingless insect "population" becomes particularly high, the insects start searching for a place to expand their vital space and invade new territories. Black widow spider, common in Kazakhstan, penetrates Altai in case of the sharp increase in its reproduction. Rapid appearance of the gregarious locust forms here is even more probable, and one should be ready to it.

The researchers passed 6,000 km, worked in tens of ecosystems, in many of them for the first time, singled out useful and harmful insect species, and even discovered species heretofore unknown to science. The hypothesis of one of the staff members of the Institute of Animal Systematics and Ecology, suggesting that dragon-flies can fly hunting as far as tens of kilometers from their "native" water bodies, was confirmed. Siberian zoologists counted the residents of the grass and soil, considerably supplemented the collection of the museum, and obtained new data on the biological diversity of Kazakhstan.

Strengthening of relationships between the scientists of the two countries is also worthy of note. Joint search of biologically correct methods for forest and field pest control was started. It must be pointed out that our southern neighbors uncontrollably used chemicals for this purpose until very recently. More than 25 mln dollars were annually spent on these chemicals, though the cheapest ones were purchased, often prohibited in Europe, and huge territories were treated. Perhaps that is why sousliks and marmots almost disappeared there, and, what is particularly important, entomophages, destined by the nature to fight against garden and kitchen-garden pests, as a result of which fruit trees in many regions are now enveloped in the apple moth web nests. Moreover, widely used toxic compounds could get into lakes, pure mountain rivers, and from there-to water supply reservoirs of large cities.

It is clear that new methods for crop preservation should be found, including the study of biological control of the number of pests. For many years Siberian scientists have been working to make preparations based on bacteria, fungi, microsporidias (primitive intracellular parasites of all animal groups, most often arthropods), viruses, and to find their new strains. We are pleased to speak about the progress in this direction: on the territory between the Novosibirsk region and Northern Kazakhstan there had been found the fungi; due to which it became possible to prepare an insecticide protecting from the locust; laboratory experiments demonstrated high efficiency of this preparation.

Study of the mechanisms responsible for insect resistance to pathogenic microorganisms is in progress. Wide-scale experiments are being carried out at the Kazakh Scientific-Research Institute of Plant Protection for the second year: the locust is placed into containers and treated with the fungus, after which dead insects are counted. In 2005, these experiments were carried out only with the Asian locust species; in 2006, the Morocco, Italian, and desert species were included in the study.

Now the Siberian scientists are ready to offer a biological preparation to combat this truly natural calamity, bringing disaster to the agriculture of Kazakhstan and southern Russia. The fungus-based "antibiotic" for plants is similar to the agent used in the USA and is to a

* Type of relief with scattered hills and their groups (50 - 100 m high), separated by wide flat lower areas. - Ed.

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certain measure more effective, as its strain was obtained in the arid (dry) zone and the insects are very sensitive to it. But the study is not over yet. Methods for application of this agent are still to be developed (methods of integral control of the locust count).

One more trend of research of Siberian zoologists are bacterial diseases of pests, which can also serve as "weapons" against them. For example, dead caterpillars were found in the nests of white American butterfly (a pest of trees, including fruit trees, heretofore unknown in Kazakhstan). Bacteria which caused their death were isolated from these caterpillars; these bacteria are highly active against many other larvae. The creation of a preparation, similar to that used in Russia, is now discussed in Kazakhstan.

Siberian scientists are also collaborating with the RAS Institute of Organic Chemistry, where a method for improving the efficiency of the biological insecticides (specifically, against Colorado potato beetle and butterflies) was suggested: application of an activator suppressing physiological functions of the pests simultaneously with the preparation, as for the present only 50 - 70 percent of their number are killed, and the aim is 100 percent effective agent, sparing the useful insects, safe for plants, vertebrates, and man.

V. Sadykova "6,000 Kilometers in Kazakhstan ", Science in Siberia, No. 31, 2006

Prepared by Olga BAZANOVA


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