Biological control of an invasive pest eases pressures on global commodity markets

K.A.G. Wyckhuys, W. Zhang, S.D. Prager, D.B. Kramer, E. Delaquis, C.E. Gonzalez, W. van der Werf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In an increasingly globalized world, invasive species cause major human, financial, and environmental costs. A cosmopolitan pest of great concern is the cassava mealybug Phenacoccus manihoti (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), which invaded Asia in 2008. Following its arrival, P. manihoti inflicted measurable yield losses and a 27% drop in aggregate cassava production in Thailand. As Thailand is a vital exporter of cassava-derived commodities to China and supplies 36% of the world's internationally-traded starch, yield shocks triggered price surges and structural changes in global starch trade. In 2009 a biological control agent was introduced in Asia-the host-specific parasitoid, Anagyrus lopezi (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae). This parasitoid had previously controlled the cassava mealybug in Africa, and its introduction in Asia restored yield levels at a continent-wide scale. Trade network and price time-series analyses reveal how both mealybug-induced production loss and subsequent parasitoid-mediated yield recovery coincided with price fluctuations in futures and spot markets, with important cascading effects on globe-spanning trade networks of (cassava) starch and commodity substitutes. While our analyses may not imply causality, especially given the concurrent 2007-2011 food crises, our results do illuminate the important interconnections among subcomponents of the global commodity system. Our work underlines how ecologically-based tactics support resilience and safeguard primary productivity in (tropical) agro-ecosystems, which in turn help stabilize commodity markets in a similar way as pesticide-centered approaches. Yet, more importantly, (judiciously-implemented) biological control can deliver ample 'hidden' environmental and human-health benefits that are not captured by the prices of globally-traded commodities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number094005
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • biological control
  • ecosystem services
  • invasion biology
  • social-ecological systems
  • sustainable intensification
  • tele-coupling

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