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Abstract Detail

Conservation Biology

Jolls, Claudia [1], Havens, Kayri [2], Knight, Tiffany [3], Vitt, Pati [2].

Is biological control of weedy plants by insects effective and safe?

More than 500 taxa have been released globally for biological control, largely of invasive plants. Recent reviews promote biocontrol as relatively safe and efficient. We, however, draw different conclusions based on our review of more than 400 pieces of the same literature, and of highlighted and randomly selected examples of biocontrol successes. We also asked whether studies to date can reliably conclude "non-target impacts" (NTI), the so called 'Achilles heel' of biological control, are minimal in impact. We found that studies often are data-deficient or lack appropriate designs to assess impact of biocontrol insects on targeted weeds or on non-targeted plant taxa. Of specific concern is the relative lack of 1) field-based studies that can translate measured fitness components to population-level effects, 2) appropriate BACI design for effect sizes, 3) long-term study, 4) objective, quantifiable search for non-target impacts, and 5) ecological and evolutionary perspectives on potential impacts. Our work on the demography, ecology, and genetics of a Great Lakes endemic, Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), illustrates some of the challenges of documenting NTI. Non target impacts require time to appear and lag phases complicate detection. Lack of records also prevents critical evaluation of NTI. Given the relative rewards and risks of biological control, we support increasing rigor, i.e., less frequent release, more careful testing, and more extensive regulation of biocontrol agents. Stronger collaborations of the conservation and biocontrol researchers and involvement of citizen science hold promise to help obtain data for informed decisions about the relative rewards and risks of biocontrol.

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1 - East Carolina University, Biology, Howell Science Complex MS 551, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, 27858-4353, US
2 - Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022, United States
3 - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Deutscher Platz 5e, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

invasive plants
rare plants.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 40, Conservation Biology I
Location: 106/Mayo Civic Center
Date: Wednesday, July 25th, 2018
Time: 10:15 AM
Number: 40007
Abstract ID:816
Candidate for Awards:None

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