Biocontrol programs use an invasive plant’s natural enemies (insects and pathogens) to reduce its population. Most biocontrol programs combine many different enemies – typically about three different species, but sometimes as many as 25 – with the hope that at least one will prove effective.
Photo of Larinus minutus, a weevil introduced to combat the invasive diffuse knapweed in western North America. The effectiveness of the weevil and other biological agents may be reduced when species combinations work against each other.
“Our study suggests that this approach can lead to ineffective biocontrol, because the interactions between the released enemies can reduce the overall effectiveness of biocontrol,” says Diane Srivastava, author on the paper and professor in UBC's Biodiversity Research Centre.
Of the 75 combinations the researchers investigated, about a quarter appeared to have a smaller combined impact than expected. The researchers suggest simple species combination rules could improve the effectiveness of biocontrol programs.The study recommends avoiding combinations of species that attack the same part of the plant at the same time, as well as assessing the impact of species attacking reproductive structures.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia | EurekAlert!
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