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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE WEEDS IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES

Location: Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research

Title: Science and Decision Making in Biological Control of Weeds: Benefits and Risks of Biological Control

Authors
item Carruthers, Raymond
item D'Antonio, Carla - UC SANTA BARBARA

Submitted to: Biological Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 15, 2005
Publication Date: December 1, 2005
Citation: Carruthers, R.I., D'Antonio, C.M. 2005. Science and decision making in biological control of weeds: benefits and risks of biological control. Biological Control. 35(3):181-182.

Interpretive Summary: This article provides an overview of issues important for the US Department of Agriculture and others that are involved in the use of biological control to control exotic and invasive species. Many exotic species have caused extensive damage to valued resources both in natural and managed ecosystems and thus have warranted human intervention to control the associated consequences. Invasive plants for example, can alter rangeland quality, interfere with crop yields, cause populations declines in valued native species and dramatically change ecosystem functioning. Biological control has been used extensively to manage many invasive species, including many introduced plants that have become widely damaging. As an undesired consequence of a highly limited number of these biological control programs, some unpredicted side effects have been documented. A combination of federal, state and local scientists have worked hard to provide new information regarding the safe and effective use of biological control and are recommending the use of Benefit/Risk Assessment technology to help improve safety and acceptability of important pest management practices including biological control. This article provides an introduction to that topic which is followed by several more detailed articles addressing potential issues and recommended solutions.

Technical Abstract: Classical biological control is the use of a natural enemy for the home range of an introduced pest to help control that pest in a new area of infestation or invasion. In this modern age of rapid world-wide transportation and extensive trade, many organisms have been actively or inadvertently moved throughout the globe. Often times these organisms serve valuable roles like crop species or just have merged with little effect into their new environment. Other times, these new immigrants grow unbounded and become severe pests. When such an invasion occurs, responsible institutions like the US Department of Agriculture are often called upon to intervene and control such invasive species. Control procedures may use a wide array of techniques such as area-wide pest eradication using pesticides, baits, trapping measures, etc. to bring a difficult situation back into balance. One such technique, biological control, uses an organism’s natural enemies against it in its new area of invasion. This typically requires that detailed investigations be conducted in the country of origin of both the pest and its natural enemies. This is typically followed by extensive safety testing in US-based quarantine facilities and then a formal request for approvals to release the beneficial agents. Questions have arisen lately regarding the overall safety of making such releases into the natural environment since these new organisms are expected to reproduce and spread through out the environment. The article introduces a multi-agency workshop that was designed to bring together a critical group of pest management personnel with conservation biologists to discuss the benefits and risks of biological control and how best to conduct safe and effective program in the future. The outcome of this workshop is presented in this special issue of the Journal Biological Control. Detailed papers addressing a wide array of issues have been presented and many different methods of assessing and managing potential problems have been addressed. The central conclusion of this group was that biological control provides an excellent method of managing invasive species, however, caution needs to be used in designing and implementing new programs. Benefit/Risk assessment was felt to be an excellent tool to help guide future programs.

Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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