Environmental risk assessments (ERAs) are required before utilizing exotic arthropods for biological control (BC). Present ERAs focus on exposure analysis (host/prey range) and have resulted in approval of many specialist exotic biological control agents (BCA). In comparison to specialists, generalist arthropod BCAs (GABCAs) have been considered inherently risky and less used in classical biological control. To safely consider exotic GABCAs, an ERA must include methods for the analysis of potential effects. A panel of 47 experts from 14 countries discussed, in six online forums over 12 months, scientific criteria for an ERA for exotic GABCAs. Using four case studies, a three-tiered ERA comprising Scoping, Screening and Definitive Assessments was developed. The ERA is primarily based on expert consultation, with decision processes in each tier that lead to the approval of the petition or the subsequent tier. In the Scoping Assessment, likelihood of establishment (for augmentative BC), and potential effect(s) are qualitatively assessed. If risks are identified, the Screening Assessment is conducted, in which 19 categories of effects (adverse and beneficial) are quantified. If a risk exceeds the proposed risk threshold in any of these categories, the analysis moves to the Definitive Assessment to identify potential non-target species in the respective category(ies). When at least one potential non-target species is at significant risk, long-term and indirect ecosystem risks must be quantified with actual data or the petition for release can be dismissed or withdrawn. The proposed ERA should contribute to the development of safe pathways for the use of low risk GABCAs.
- Non-target species