Economics of controlling invasive species: the case of Californian thistle in New Zealand

S.M. Chalak

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Invasive species, Economics, Californian thistle, New Zealand, Stochastic, Dynamic programming, Biological control, Extinction risk, Herbivory, Dispersal, Competition
Invasive species are one of the most significant threats to biodiversity and agricultural production systems leading to huge worldwide economic damages. This thesis has two main aims. The first aim is to analyse the control of an invasive plant in an agricultural system, using the case study of the Californian thistle in New Zealand. The second aim is to study the negative externalities that controlling invasion in agriculture can pose to ecosystems.
To achieve the first aim, both deterministic and stochastic dynamic programming models are set up to find cost effective methods to tackle the problem of Californian thistle. I make a contribution to the literature by performing a dynamic and stochastic programming analysis in which two different categories of control strategies are considered, each with different dynamics. Models are set up with a discrete decision variable consisting of 62 feasible combinations of integrated control strategies. For the second aim I introduce a novel modelling approach in which two compartments are distinguished: a managed compartment where locally a herbivore is introduced to control a weed, and a natural compartment where the same herbivore species can attack a wild plant species. The main processes are herbivory, competition, dispersal and control.
I conclude that bioeconomic modelling is an important tool in analysing optimal management strategies for the control of invasive species and that annual and once and for all choices need to be integrated in the analysis. A stochastic approach is appropriate but does not necessarily lead to different results, depending on the parameter values and the setup of the model. Finally, the method illustrates that an integrated analysis of the economic system and the ecological system is required to assess the risk of extinction of natural plant species. This risk depends on species interactions which in this thesis are competition, dispersal and herbivory. I conclude that a control measure can protect the desirable wild plant species and increase benefits obtained from the ecosystem.
For the policy implications, I conclude that there are several strategies to control invasive species, which can be integrated combinations of control options. The optimal strategy depends on the costs and benefits of the control options. In the case study for the Californian thistle I found that the optimal strategy is a combination of methods. For the interaction between agricultural and natural system I conclude that introducing a biological agent to the agricultural system can cause extinction of a desirable plant in the natural system. The main processes are competition, herbivory and dispersal. These processes are important and need to be analysed in detail before introducing the biological agent. I conclude that the optimal strategy to control the introduced biological agent also depends on interaction of species through competition, dispersal and herbivory.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Ierland, Ekko, Promotor
  • Ruijs, Arjan, Co-promotor
Award date25 Feb 2009
Place of Publication[S.l.
Print ISBNs9789085853213
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • environment
  • economics
  • invasion
  • weeds
  • biological control
  • extinction
  • risk
  • herbivores
  • dynamic programming
  • dispersal
  • plant competition
  • pollen competition
  • new zealand
  • cirsium arvense
  • environmental economics
  • plant dispersal


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