Invasive plant species can be controlled by introducing natural enemies (insect herbivores) from their native range. However, such introduction entails the risk that the introduced herbivores attack indigenous plant species in the area of introduction. Here, we study the effect of spillover of a herbivore from a managed ecosystem compartment (agriculture) to a natural compartment (non-managed) and vice versa. In the natural compartment, an indigenous plant species is attacked by the introduced herbivores, whereas another indigenous plant species, which competes with the first, is not attacked. The combination of competition and herbivory may result in extinction of the attacked wild plant species. Using a modelling approach, we determine model parameters that characterize the risk of extinction for a wild plant species. Risk factors include: (1) a high attack rate of the herbivores on the wild non-target species, (2) niche overlap expressed as strong competition between the attacked non-target species and its competitor(s), and (3) factors favouring large spillover from the managed ecosystem compartment to the natural compartment; these include (3a) a high dispersal ability, and (3b) a moderate attack rate of the introduced herbivore on the target species, enabling large resident populations of the insect herbivore in the managed compartment. The analysis thus indicates that a high attack rate on the target species, which is a selection criterion for biocontrol agents with respect to their effectiveness, also mitigates risks resulting from spillover and non-target effects. While total eradication of an invasive plant species is not possible in the one-compartment-one-plant-one-herbivore system, natural enemy spillover from a natural to a managed compartment can make the invasive weed go extinct.
- agricultural landscapes
Chalak, M., Hemerik, L., van der Werf, W., Ruijs, A., & van Ierland, E. C. (2010). On the risk of extinction of a wild plant species through spillover of a biological control agent: Analysis of an ecosystem compartment model. Ecological Modelling, 221(16), 1934-1943. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2010.05.003