, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 319-329
Date: 20 Oct 2011

Biocontrol without borders: the unintended spread of introduced weed biological control agents

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

An underlying assumption of classical biological control implies that intentionally introduced natural enemies will remain within the boundaries that delineate the program’s area of implementation. A weed biological control program targeting Melaleuca quinquenervia in Florida, USA has resulted in the release and establishment of Oxyops vitiosa and Boreioglycaspis melaleucae. An international survey of M. quinquenervia populations in 13 other states or countries where the insects have not been intentionally introduced was initiated to monitor the long range dispersal of O. vitiosa and B. melaleucae beyond the herbivores’ intended geographic range (Florida). Surveys in 2006 resulted in the discovery of B. melaleucae within the canopies of several M. quinquenervia trees near San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 2007, O. vitiosa was observed on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas but neither herbivore was detected on nearby Grand Bahama or Andros islands. In 2009, B. melaleucae was observed attacking M. quinquenervia trees in Los Angeles, California (USA). The herbivores have not been detected on other surveyed M. quinquenervia populations in Cuba, Jamaica, Texas (USA), Costa Rica, Brazil, Hawaii (USA) or South Africa. There is no evidence to suggest that herbivore colonization of New Providence, Puerto Rico, or California was influenced by linear distance between Florida and the recipient M. quinquenervia stand. While the dispersal pathway(s) remains unknown, biological control agents were detected from 200 to >3500 km from their original release location (Florida) and at locations that have strong links via tourism and trade as indicated by the number of airline flights connecting south Florida with colonized tree populations. Implications of this unintended spread are discussed in relation to permeability of biogeographical barriers and risk assessment of biological control agents.

Handling Editor: Mark Hoddle