UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Potential environmental influences on biological control : can drought improve success and do congeners preferentially exploit different habitats? Jackson, Caroline Anne Rosamund


Climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity, and will alter species ranges, plant and animal phenology, and species interactions within ecosystems. Climate mediates plant-insect interactions, and consequently has the potential for positive or negative effects on biological control systems. Observational evidence suggests that a recent dramatic reduction in the density of diffuse knapweed, Centaurea diffusa Lamarck, in sites in British Columbia, Canada is attributed to the biological agent Larinus minutus Gyllenhal (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). This decline took place over several years of late spring and summer drought which suggested an association between dry conditions and successful biological control. To explore this, I conducted field experiments using rain shelters and watering treatments to assess the effectiveness of plant attack by L. minutus under moist and dry conditions. I found that L. minutus reduced seed production regardless of moisture conditions, with a trend towards greater seed reduction under dry conditions. Two or more species of insects in the same genera have been introduced in some weed biocontrol programs. If the species are ecological equivalents and compete the introduction of both species may be detrimental and reduce their impacts. If however the species vary in their distributions, the introduction of congeners may be advantageous. I review the following cases of species pair releases: the beetles Chrysolina quadrigemina (Suffrian) and Chrysolina hyperici (Forster) for St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum L.); the gallflies Urophora affinis Frfld. and Urophora quadrifasciata (Meig.) for Centaurea species; the weevils Neochetina bruchi Hustache and Neochetina eichhorniae Warner for water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms.) and the beetles Galerucella pusilla Duftschmidt and Galerucella calmariensis L. for purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.). I found that congeneric agents can offer complementary control of target weeds in slightly different habitats. Given the increasing focus on possible non-target effects of biological control introductions, I recommend that greater care be taken to avoid mixed species introductions and that judicious use be made of controlled field experimentation to determine species impacts. Molecular studies of species before introduction could help prevent the accidental introduction of multiple species.

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