Special section: Invasive species

d specificity of proposed biocontrol agents are often inadequate, which can lead to surprises when they are released in the field. For instance, a European seed-eating weevil was predicted to prefer the invasive Canada thistle but ended up preferring the native Tracy's thistle in Colorado. There are few, if any, options for addressing biocontrol gone amok. "'Recall' of problematic species from ecosystems where they are damaging native species is either impossible or prohibitively expensive," say Svata Louda and three colleagues at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

  • From a conservation standpoint, the best approach to invasive species is a combination of a no-tolerance policy for non-native species and immediate eradication of any that are found. "Shoot first, ask questions later," says Daniel Simberloff of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. All too often, studies to determine the best way of controlling an invasive species take such a long time that the species spreads significantly, making it much harder and more expensive to control. Simberloff argues for using whatever methods are currently available, adopting any new methods as they are found. This "brute force" approach has controlled plenty of invasions effectively: for instance, rats, goats, and other introduced mammals were eradicated from Mexican islands with traps, hunting dogs and rifles; and witchweed, an African root parasite, is controlled in the Carolinas with herbicides and a rigorous quarantine on anything that could carry soil out of infested areas.


  • Contact: Fred Allendorf
    Society for Conservation Biology

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