, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 3-38

Environmental risk assessment of exotic natural enemies used in inundative biological control

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Abstract

In the past 100 years many exotic naturalenemies have been imported, mass reared andreleased as biological control agents. Negativeenvironmental effects of these releases haverarely been reported. The current popularity ofinundative biological control may, however,result in problems, as an increasing number ofactivities will be executed by persons nottrained in identification, evaluation andrelease of biological control agents.Therefore, a methodology for risk assessmenthas been developed within the EU-financedproject `Evaluating Environmental Risks ofBiological Control Introductions into Europe[ERBIC]' as a basis for regulation of importand release of exotic natural enemies used ininundative forms of biological control (i.e.not in `classical biological control' thoughsome of the same principles and approachesapply). This paper proposes a general frameworkof a risk assessment methodology for biologicalcontrol agents, integrating information on thepotential of an agent to establish, itsabilities to disperse, its host range, and itsdirect and indirect effects on non-targets. Ofthese parameters, estimating indirect effectson non-targets will be most difficult, asmyriads of indirect effects may occur whengeneralist natural enemies are introduced. Theparameter `host range' forms a central elementin the whole risk evaluation process, becauselack of host specificity might lead tounacceptable risk if the agent establishes anddisperses widely, whereas, in contrast, amonophagous biological control agent is notexpected to create serious risk even when itestablishes and disperses well. Drawing onpublished information and expert opinion, theproposed risk assessment methodology is appliedto a number of biological control agentscurrently in use. These illustrative casehistories indicate that the risk assessmentmethodology can discriminate between agents,with some species attaining low `risk indices'and others scoring moderate or high. Riskindices should, however, not be seen asabsolute values, but as indicators to which ajudgement can be connected by biologicalcontrol experts for granting permission torelease or not.