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RISCC Publishes New Management Challenge on Climate Change, Biological Control Agents, and Target Hosts

Wednesday, March 6, 2024
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Biocontrol is an important management tool that utilizes one species (a biocontrol agent) to control another (a target host) and can be an effective approach for controlling populations of invasive species across broad spatial scales. Most strategies of biocontrol involve introducing or supplementing natural predator, herbivore, parasitoid, or pathogen populations to reduce populations of target hosts. A successful biocontrol program results in the suppression (but not eradication) of target host populations across the landscape by reducing host abundance, reproductive output, or vigor.

Climate change, though, is complicating biocontrol, raising concerns that mismatches between how biocontrol agents and their hosts respond to climate change could alter the efficacy of current and future biocontrol programs. In response, a team of RISCC Management Network and NE CASC researchers has published a new "Management Challenge" that details how climate change impacts the relationship between biocontrol agents and their target hosts and outlines management implications arising from this problem. These implications include: 

  • Incorporating climate change explicitly into the biocontrol agent testing and approval process, including how biocontrol agents and target hosts survive, reproduce, and perform with warming, drought, and higher CO2 may help prepare biocontrol programs for future conditions.
  • Adjusting the timing, source populations, and frequency of biocontrol releases may be necessary given climate change responses.
  • Continuing to explore treatment options for problematic invasive species may yield additional management strategies to supplement biocontrol.
  • By collaborating with researchers, managers may achieve more effective monitoring of biocontrol releases may result by gathering baseline data on survival, reproduction, and efficacy of both biocontrol agents and target hosts as well as identifying priority taxa to study.