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June 2001, Volume 22 No. 2

General News


Heather Beetle: from Doom to Boom?

Seven years after it was introduced to New Zealand, the first outbreak of a beetle agent introduced to control heather (Calluna vulgaris) has been reported. Having overcome a series of setbacks, this project seems set to become a good demonstration of classical biological control as an effective management tool of an invasive alien weed in conservation areas.

Heather was introduced into the Tongariro National Park in central North Island as part of an unsuccessful and misguided attempt to set up a grouse moor in the early 20th century. The spread of heather into native red tussock (Chionochloa rubra) communities of this World Heritage Site has become a major conservation problem. Heather also invades other subalpine vegetation, and is now threatening the important Moawhango ecological zone, which is home to many rare New Zealand endemic plants. In 1991, CABI Bioscience (at that time the International Institute of Biological Control, IIBC) were brought in to survey in Europe for possible biocontrol agents. The heather beetle, Lochmaea suturalis, looked like being the answer. Heather beetle 'outbreaks' occur typically at 5-10 year intervals in northern Europe, sometimes causing complete mortality of heather over many hectares. The beetle is regarded as a pest of heather moorland used for grouse shooting, and causes damage to valuable areas of heather in lowland nature reserves in both the UK and the Netherlands.

As a potential biocontrol agent for release in conservation areas, host specificity testing was rigorous and extensive. However, during 5 years' testing in the UK, it was found to be completely specific to heather apart from one incidence of feeding on the New Zealand alpine species Pentachondra pumila in no-choice tests. Field tests were conducted in the UK on root-washed P. pumila imported from New Zealand before the beetle was declared safe for importation. At the end of 1992, shipments were dispatched with high hopes to New Zealand where Landcare Research was to complete screening.

During routine screening in 1994 the imported beetles were found to be infected with a microsporidian disease. Painstaking rearing and hygiene procedures finally led to the establishment of a disease-free colony, and the first beetles from this were released in 1996. Then a series of eruptions by Mt Ruapehu covered some of the release sites with thick ash, and for 3 years searches turned up nothing. In December 1999, as hope had all but faded, a few adults and larvae were found at one release site at Te Piripiri - the site that been inundated with most ash in autumn/winter 1996. By the following spring (December 2000) beetle numbers there had grown to outbreak proportions: one patch of dying heather was found to contain thousands of beetles.

Just how widespread heather beetle is now is still unknown. It may yet establish at some of the other 20 original sites it was released at from 1996-1999. The adults drop to the ground when disturbed, and are hard to spot unless large numbers are present. The main focus now, however, is on redistributing the beetles to as many other areas as possible, as the Te Piripiri site contains only a small patch of heather (perhaps 50 m2), which is now all heavily damaged. Vegetation monitoring plots are all in place to measure the hoped-for decline in heather abundance and document the recovery of native vegetation. Of course, if the heather beetle is rapidly effective, then other issues may need to be considered such as the increased fire risk, and management options to limit invasion by 'replacement weeds'.

In the existing small outbreak site, we can confirm that despite the severe damage to heather, no native plant species appear to been attacked at all. As luck would have it, the one native species that was nibbled by heather beetle during testing (P. pumila) is present under dead and dying heather at Te Piripiri: gratifyingly, it looks perfectly healthy despite the thousands of heather beetle larvae and adults finishing off the heather! Other native plants such as Dracophyllum spp. (also on the test plant list) are very visible as 'islands' of undamaged foliage in the patch of dead and dying heather. These observations provide confirmation of the accuracy of predictions about the host range of the beetle from pre-release testing.

Contact: Simon Fowler,
Landcare Research,
Private Bag 92170,
New Zealand
Fax: +64 9 849 7093

Living in Clover

The weevil Sitona lepidus was first discovered infesting white clover (Trifolium repens) in New Zealand in 1996. It was soon recognized to occur at far higher densities (typically 300 but as high as 1400/m2) than in its home range in Europe. It inflicts significant damage to valuable pasture in the northern part of New Zealand's North Island and is spreading southwards at the rate of 30-40 km/year. Weevil adults feed on the leaves but most damage is inflicted by the larvae, which attack the root nodules. This not only causes nitrogen stress and loss of plant vigour in clover, but also affects other pasture species through decreased soil fertility, and ultimately farm production. Treatment with post-grazing low-rate nitrogen fertilizer treatment has provided some interim improvement to pasture vigour, but clearly, a long-term solution is needed. Given the success in New Zealand with biological control of exotic weevils in lucerne and ryegrass by introduced parasitoids, this seemed a promising avenue for New Zealand's AgResearch scientists to follow.

Exploration for natural enemies of S. lepidus in Europe and the USA began in 1998. The focus narrowed to Europe in 1999 and 2000 as it became clear that the Old World material was yielding more promising results. New Zealand researchers worked with a number of collaborators in Europe, including the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) in Devon (UK), the US Department of Agriculture European Biological Control Laboratory (USDA EBCL) in Montpellier (France) and the CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre in Delémont. Notably, they benefited from interactions with scientists associated with COST (European Cooperation in the field of Science and Technology) 814, which was aimed at crop development for the cool and wet regions of Europe; amongst other things, scientists were studying overwintering and spring growth of white clover in different climatic zones. With the help of this network of researchers, a collection of some 8500 S. lepidus was amassed from 15 locations in 11 countries. Four parasitoid species were collected, but by far the most common was the braconid Microctonus aethiopoides (reared from an average of 1.4% of weevils collected, with a high of 16.9% at one site in Finland). Interestingly, this parasitoid has never been reared from S. lepidus in New Zealand, although M. aethiopoides is widespread in New Zealand pastures following its introduction against S. discoideus in lucerne. Microctonus aethiopoides was reared from specimens collected across Europe: from Ireland, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, through Norway and Sweden to Finland, and from Italy and Romania.

Microctonus aethiopoides collected from the different S. lepidus populations in Europe can be continuously reared in the laboratory on S. lepidus from New Zealand as well as Europe. (The other parasitoid species collected could not be reared in the laboratory.) Sufficient M. aethiopoides were reared for cultures of each geographical population of the parasitoid to be sent to New Zealand where research is continuing on host range and biological characteristics (e.g. searching efficiency) of the ecotypes. There are, however, a number of obstacles to releasing these new strains. Although M. aethiopoides was introduced into New Zealand for control of the lucerne weevil, it has been recorded attacking a number of other species [see BNI 22(1) (March 2001) Taste of its own medicine?] so host specificity testing for the European strains will be rigorous. It will also be necessary to assess the impact the new strain(s) would have on the existing M. aethiopoides population in New Zealand. To this end, the extent, if any, of reproductive isolation between populations will be ascertained. If such isolation can be demonstrated, it would remove worries about adverse impacts on biological control in lucerne, for example, but such a strain would technically represent a cryptic species and hence far more rigorous pre-release testing would be necessary than normal.

A pathogen may present a complement to the parasitoid. Thirty-four isolates of Beauveria bassiana were found on weevils collected in 2000 in Wales, England, France, the Netherlands and Romania, and preliminary assays indicate these to be up to ten times more virulent against S. lepidus than an isolate already present in S. lepidus in New Zealand. The attack rate, host range, field efficacy and genetics of these new isolates are now being assessed in quarantine in New Zealand.

Developing effective application methods for microbial biocontrol agents is crucial and it is recognized that poor application often limits efficacy [see BNI 21(4), 96N-100N (December 2000) Rational pesticide use: an alternative escape from the treadmill?]. Research is therefore being conducted into improving storage life and UV tolerance (and hence persistence in the field) of the B. bassiana strains. This research has been funded by a number of sources, but in particular the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and contributions from the New Zealand pastoral producer boards.

Contact: Stephen Goldson,
AgResearch Biocontrol and Biosecurity
Group, PO Box 60,
Lincoln, Canterbury, New Zealand
Fax: +64 3 9833904

Garlic Mustard: Whiff of Success

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is currently one of the most serious invasive species in forested areas of the northeastern and midwestern USA, and appears to be spreading in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the few non-indigenous herbaceous species able to invade and dominate the understorey of North American forests. This results in a significant decline in native herbs and some rare native butterflies, and possibly also affects ground-nesting birds, small mammals and amphibians. Physical, chemical and mechanical controls have failed to provide effective long-term control.

Garlic mustard is native to Europe (from Sweden and Britain south to the Mediterranean), but its range extends east through Russia to the Himalayas, India and Sri Lanka. It has also been introduced to New Zealand. It is a weed, however, only in North America where it was first recorded in the 1860s. Surveys for natural enemies conducted by CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre, Delémont in western Europe turned up 69 insect species and seven fungi attacking A. petiolata. The most important natural enemies were weevils, chrysomelids and Lepidoptera. Although many of these were considered not sufficiently host specific, interest is focusing on weevils in the genus Ceutorhynchus, which appear to have a narrow host range.

In particular, five Ceutorhynchus species have been found occupying different spatial niches on garlic mustard. Adult weevils feed on the leaves, while the larvae mine the shoots, petioles and/or root crowns, or feed on the developing seeds. At high weevil densities, plants were observed to wilt prematurely without producing seeds. All five species are reported as monophagous on A. petiolata, but this is to be investigated further.

A flea beetle (Phyllotreta ochripes), which attacks the leaves as an adult and the roots as a larva, has also been studied. However, the larvae have been shown also to complete development on species of Rorippa and Brassica. It appears that this species is not sufficiently host specific to consider introduction to North America.

Work is now focused on impact and interaction studies to assess the effects of these natural enemy species on garlic mustard performance and reproduction, and on detailed assessments of host specificity. Specificity testing will be based on procedures described by Wapshere1, with some 50 plant species included, particularly native North American and cultivated crucifers, and other native plants in forest habitats of the weed's adventive range.

In conclusion, the Ceutorhynchus species currently under study in Switzerland appear host specific, they can reach high attack rates and appear to limit population size of garlic mustard in Europe. Populations covering more than a few hundred square metres are uncommon in Europe whereas populations of garlic mustard in North America can extend over many hectares (>10,000 m2). The prospects for a successful biological control programme appear excellent. Introduction of the first control agent is anticipated within the next 3 years. A standardized long-term monitoring protocol is under development in North America which will be used to assess changes associated with the introduction of biological control agents.

1Wapshere, A.J. (1989) A testing sequence for reducing rejection of potential biological control agents of weeds.
Annals of Applied Biology 114, 515-526.

Contacts: Bernd Blossey,
Assistant Professor and Director,
Biological Control of Non-Indigenous
Plant Species Program,
Department of Natural Resources,
Fernow Hall, Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
Fax: +1 607 255 0349
Hariet L. Hinz,
CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre,
CH-2800 Delémont, Switzerland
Fax: +41 32 4214871

Biocontrol Programme for Hoary Cress

Hoary cresses or whitetops (Cardaria spp.) currently infest large and valuable areas of pasture, rangeland and riparian habitat in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, California, and Alberta. In addition, they are serious weeds of grain, alfalfa and some orchard crops. They also serve as an alternative host for the cabbage seed pod weevil (Ceutorhynchus obstrictus = C. assimilis), a major pest of canola and oilseed rape in Alberta. Recent studies by Darryl Jewett at the US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory (Sidney, Montana) have demonstrated that they act as reservoirs for economically important plant diseases. They are declared noxious weeds in 14 US states and three Canadian provinces.

Hoary cresses are deep rooted, hardy perennial mustards with stout stems that grow up to 60 cm tall. The root system consists of persistent vertical and lateral roots from which new rosettes and flowering shoots arise, thus allowing the plants to develop into thick stands. The root system means that cultural control is difficult: it survives thatching treatment, and repeated cutting or cultivation. Grazing is unpromising as a control measure, as sheep do not graze established plants, and cows avoid it (and produce tainted milk if they do eat it). Some success has been achieved with metsulfuron or 2,4-D, but chemical control is considered difficult.

Mustard weeds are often thought to be difficult candidates for biological control, as they are related to many important crop plants. There are exceptions - the article above describes a programme for biocontrol of garlic mustard on the East Coast of the USA, which is looking very promising. This, together with the severity of the problems caused by hoary cresses, and the absence of effective management measures, have led to a new biological control programme being initiated. The programme currently involves the Wyoming Biocontrol Steering Committee, Idaho Department of Agriculture, researchers at the universities of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Board, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), ARS and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs (USDI BIA).

Hoary cresses are indigenous to southwestern and central Asia, southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean region. They were probably introduced to the New World in the late 19th century in contaminated alfalfa seed, and plants were first noted around seaports along both east and west coasts. Foreign exploration will be conducted by André Gassmann and Hariet Hinz from the CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre, Delémont, and coordinated with the USDA European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) in Montpellier, France. Mark Schwarzländer, University of Idaho, will begin to study the distribution, ecology and possibilities for integrated control of hoary cress.

Sources: Schwarzländer, M.
(2001) Hoary cress biocontrol program
launched. WYOBIO 4(3), p. 2.
Anon. (2000) Noxious weed found to
harbour viruses. Northern PlainFacts

Contacts: Mark Schwarzländer,
PSES Department,
University of Idaho, Moscow,
ID 83844-2339, USA
Fax: +1 208 885 7760
Hariet L. Hinz
[ ]
and André Gassmann
[ ]
CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre,
CH-2800 Delémont, Switzerland
Fax: +41 32 4214871

Insects Suit Water Hyacinth Biocontrol

The success of the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) biocontrol programme on Lake Victoria has not meant that the weed is no longer a priority. Far from it, participants in biocontrol programmes against this invasive weed around the World have if anything intensified their efforts. Calls for action at the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) Beijing meeting (reported in the last issue) attest to that. New successes with insect agents have been reported recently, and the hunt continues for yet more natural enemies to add to the existing arsenal.

From Mexico comes a report of the Neochetina weevils once again bringing the weed under control. In Sinaloa, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, water hyacinth mats were causing severe problems in irrigation systems, obstructing canals and clogging ditches. US Department of Agriculture - Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Mexican scientists released more than 8600 N. bruchi and 14,500 N. eichhorniae in Sinaloa between January 1995 and August 1996, and within 2-3 years had brought about colossal reductions in water hyacinth coverage. The initial system-wide total coverage of 3041 ha of water hyacinth was reduced to 1180 ha (an overall reduction of 61%). At the largest reservoir in the Humaya system, the 492-ha Mariquita reservoir, cover was reduced from 394 ha (80%) to 98.4 ha (20%). In reservoirs varying in size between 12 and 134 ha, coverage of 95-100% in 1995 was reduced to 1-3% by 1998.

There is an added twist to this story: scientists looking at the fecundity of weevil breeding cultures discovered that microsporidian-like infection in some of them was reducing the proportion of females laying eggs. By eliminating these infected lines, they were able to optimize the performance of the weevils after release. Studies by Teresa Rebelo (from the Faculdade Ciencias/Centro Biologia Ambiental, Universidade Lisboa, Portugal) on the impact of microsporidia on Neochetina spp. show that N. eichhorniae populations are more heavily infested with microsporidia than N. bruchi (9% vs. 6%). Further, the former exhibit systemic infections involving the midgut, fat body, and Malpighian tubules whereas in N. bruchi the microsporidian infects only the gut, and the number of spores found in N. eichhorniae is generally higher than in N. bruchi. Analyses being done using TEM (transmission electron microscopy) and molecular techniques are suggesting that each weevil species is infected by a different microsporidia species, but both are in the genus Nosema. Infected weevils show subtle signs characteristic of a chronic infection. Studies in progress suggest infection causes a 40% reduction in fertility and a slightly shortened life span.

In South Africa, the Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) is focusing on developing a suite of agents to improve and extend the varying levels of control exerted by the weevils. The latest recruit is a mirid, Eccritotarsus catarinensis, from South America. Although mirids were recovered in early surveys for biocontrol agents in the 1960-70s, this species was only identified in 1989, by the late J.C.M. Carvalho, from material collected in Brazil by PPRI staff. Host specificity testing in South Africa showed that the mirid was not monophagous, and could feed on two African species (Monochornia africana and Heteranthera callifolia). However, release of the mirid was approved in South Africa because the native species were inferior hosts, and were considered to be more at risk from competition from water hyacinth than from mirid feeding. (In contrast, the mirid was rejected as a candidate for release in Australia because of it fed on several native Monochoria species there.)

The mirid, which causes severe chlorosis in water hyacinth, is beginning to have an impact at sites being monitored in Kwazulu-Natal. Mirids were first released at one in 1996, and by the end of 1999 every plant in the dam had 50-100 nymphs on it. By the start of 2001, large patches of the plant were yellowed and appeared to be sinking. From here, in August 2000, truckloads of infested plants were transported to another weed-infested site on the Coast near Durban. By October, large brown patches were evident in the water hyacinth mats and the mirid had spread throughout the site. It has since dispersed to a third site some 20 km away, where the mirid population is now huge.

Altogether, the mirid has been released at 21 sites throughout South Africa, and has established at five of them. Encouragingly these include high-altitude as well as tropical sites, for Neochetina weevils have not generally been successful at the higher altitudes. The mirid has failed to establish at six sites, and the others have yet to be assessed. With evaluation still at an early stage, the effect the chlorosis has on water hyacinth performance in the field in South Africa has still to be assessed. Also under investigation is the mirid's thermal tolerance, to allow predictions to be made about where in South Africa it has most chance of establishing.

The mirid is the first of what may be a new wave of agents to be released, and a number more are currently under investigation. Recent surveys in South America (Argentina and in the upper reaches of the Amazon) by USDA, CABI Bioscience and PPRI staff have turned up a hitherto unexpected richness of new material (both insects and pathogens). In particular, species of the dolichopodid fly, Thrypticus, and planthoppers in the genera Taosa and Megamelus are considered promising. Pathogens, some of which were found associated with some of these insect species, provide even more material for investigation. It seems likely, then, that more agents will become available in the near future. The prospect of designer-tailoring biocontrol solutions to water hyacinth problems may be coming closer.

Information sources:
[Mexico] USDA-ARS press release,
18 January 2001.
US and Mexico cooperating to control
water-hyacinth infestation.

[South Africa/South America]
Water Hyacinth News No. 3 (April 2001), articles by Martin Hill and Hugo Cordo,
pp. 3-4. 

Contacts: [Mexico] Ted Center,
Invasive Plant Research Laboratory,
USDA, Agricultural Research Service,
3205 College Ave., Fort Lauderdale,
FL 33314, USA
Fax: +1 954 476 9169

[South Africa/Water Hyacinth News]
Martin Hill, ARC, PPRI, Private Bag X
134, Pretoria, South Africa, 0001
Fax: +27 12 3293278

[South America] Hugo Cordo, 
USDA, ARS, SAA, South American Biological Control Laboratory,
Agr. Counselor. ARS Lab.,
U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires,
Unit 4325. APO AA 34034-0001, USA

CBD Invasives Initiative Spelt Out

The global agenda to tackle invasive alien species which threaten biodiversity is developing fast, spearheaded by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Invasive alien species were the main topic for discussion at the sixth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in March 2001, and an unprecedented amount of time for a single topic -3 full days - was given over to them. They will be discussed in depth again at the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to be held in the Netherlands in April 2002.

The CBD and its underlying concepts can be difficult to communicate. The Convention itself may seem buried in an impenetrable jungle of bodies and organizations whose relationships to each other and to the Convention are hard to unravel. But do read on, for as the CBD is now taking an active role in the issue of controlling invasive alien species, this has relevance for everyone working in biocontrol.

Rough Guide

The CBD was the first global agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and gained rapid and widespread acceptance. It was signed at its inception by over 150 countries at the UN 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and now (April 2001) has 180 signatories. It stands as a landmark in international law. It recognizes for the first time that the conservation of biological diversity is 'a common concern of humankind' and is an integral part of the development process. Importantly, the Convention is legally binding: countries that join it are obliged to implement its provisions.

The CBD, as an international treaty, identifies a common problem, sets overall goals and policies and general obligations, and organizes technical and financial cooperation. However, the responsibility for achieving its goals really rests with the countries themselves. Private companies, landowners, fishermen and farmers take most of the actions that affect biodiversity. Governments need to provide the critical role of leadership, particularly by setting rules that guide the use of natural resources, and by protecting biodiversity where they have direct control over the land and water. Under the CBD, governments undertake to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity. They are required to develop national biodiversity strategies and action plans, and to integrate these into broader national plans for the environment and development.

Thus, the Convention's success depends on the combined efforts of the world's nations. The Convention has created a global forum (actually a series of meetings) where governments, NGOs, academics, the private sector, and other interested groups or individuals share ideas and develop harmonized strategies. How does this work? At its heart is a series of processes:

  • The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the Convention's ultimate authority and its governing body. It consists of representatives of all governments (and regional economic integration organizations) that have ratified the treaty. It meets to review progress under the Convention, agree recommendations from the 'technical groups' that comprise SBSTTA (see below), identify new priorities, and set work plans for members. Each government that is signatory to the Convention reports on what it has done to implement the accord, and how effective this is in meeting the objectives of the Convention. The national reports, particularly when seen together, are one of the key tools for tracking progress in meeting the Convention's objectives. COP can also make amendments to the Convention, urge expert advisory bodies, and collaborate with other international organizations and agreements.
  • The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) is a committee composed of experts from member governments competent in relevant fields. It is the interface between countries and COP, and is the powerhouse in terms of how things get done - SBSTTA actions the demands of COP.
  • The Clearing House Mechanism is an Internet-based network that promotes technical and scientific cooperation and the exchange of information.

The mechanism for organizing these processes is the Secretariat, based in Montreal (which is linked to the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP). Its main functions are to organize meetings, draft documents, assist member governments in the implementation of the programme of work, coordinate with other international organizations, and collect and disseminate information.

In addition, recognizing that developing countries will need international assistance to action the requirements of the CBD, the CBD has a funding mechanism through the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Bilateral and multilateral support for capacity building and for projects and programmes is available through GEF, which has been supported by UNEP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.

COP has launched thematic programmes to address conserving the biodiversity of various ecosystems, but it has explicitly directed that consideration of certain cross-cutting issues of relevance to all areas should be integrated into the thematic work programmes. Such issues are seen as playing an important role in bringing cohesion to the work of the Convention as they provide the substantive bridges or links between the thematic programmes. One of the cross-cutting issues that COP has identified is invasive alien species. Article 8(h) of the CBD states: "Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate... Prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species." This was expanded on during COP-5 (held in Nairobi, May 2000) in Decision V/8, 'Alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species', which urged Parties, other governments and relevant bodies to give priority to the development and implementation of invasive alien species strategies and action plans. It called for case studies by countries, particularly focusing on thematic assessments. It called for information sharing and harmonization of approaches. It suggested priority issues to address, including mechanisms for transboundary cooperation and regional and multilateral cooperation, and including exchange of best practice. It identified bodies to lead in the international arena, and called for a focus on (bio)geographically isolated ecosystems.

Guiding Principles are to be issued by COP to advise Parties how to go about fulfilling their obligations under the CBD. COP-5 issued 'Interim Guiding Principles for the Prevention, Introduction and Mitigation of Impacts of Alien Species'. These were one of the topics under consideration at SBSTTA-6.

SBBSTA-6 and Invasive Alien Species

SBSTTA-6 was attended by expert representatives from 128 nations, the European Union, 12 UN bodies and specialized agencies, and seven secretariats of treaty bodies, together with observers from a host of other stakeholder organizations. The recommendations of this meeting will go COP-6, to be held in the Netherlands in April 2002. The main agenda item (Agenda Item 4) for SBSSTA6 was invasive alien species and addressing Article 8(h) of the CBD.

In the opening plenary, Paul Chabeda (UNEP) emphasized the substantial scientific input needed for developing environmental agreements. He noted that issues involving invasive (and migratory) species required more coordination with other relevant agreements and bodies. Hamdallah Zedan, CBD Executive Secretary, noted that the submission of thematic reports on alien invasive species by 49 countries was testament to the major challenge these represent to the international community.

Keynote speakers highlighted problems with tackling invasive species. Hal Mooney (former Chair, Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP)) pointed out that society depends on the movement of biological material, and called for efforts to be concentrated on invasives that threaten ecosystems, habitats and species. He said that vectors of transmission are both accidental and intentional, and that invasives come from all taxonomic groups. He gave a chilling overview of the range of ecological and economic damage they can inflict. He also identified problems in addressing invasive problems: they alter biological systems, and can evolve quickly; there are often lag times in identifying their effects, and information about them and how to manage them is often inadequate. He identified some key needs: prediction models, environmentally benign and cost-effective control, and means to regulate the movement of invasives. Jeff Waage (Chair, GISP) noted the limitations in the capacity of most countries to tackle invasive species problems, and called for support to national programmes. He emphasized the importance of improving information availability and increasing public awareness. He also pointed out that gaps in knowledge needed to be filled in, and stressed the importance of good taxonomy and understanding pathways of invasions.

One of the two working groups of the meeting (Working Group I, chaired by Anastasios Legakis, Greece) then spent 3 days considering invasive alien species through a series of presentations (including case studies) and discussion on key topics. It discussed the nature and importance of the issue, how to respond to Article 8(h) using an integrated approach, international cooperation, prevention, early detection, eradication, control, options for future work and revisions to the Guiding Principles. In a wrap up plenary on the last day, the recommendations to COP-6 were finalized

Discussions were wide-ranging but some common themes emerged, above all the need for better information and ways of achieving this through cooperation at all national and international levels. Cooperation and partnership building was widely suggested for achieving harmonization of procedures, filling gaps in knowledge and developing effective management programmes. Key gaps in knowledge were identified, including current extent of distributions, pathways and rate of spread, and impact over time. The importance of taxonomy and the need for shared expertise were also highlighted. The costs and funding of invasives management were widely discussed - ranging from who should bear the costs of invasives, to the needs of developing countries, to calls for the engagement of commercial interests. Of particular relevance to the biocontrol sector, there was a recommendation for governments to promote and carry out, as appropriate, research and assessments on (amongst other things) costs and benefits of the use of biocontrol agents to control and eradicate invasive species.

The revised Guiding Principles, 'Alien Species that Threaten Ecosystems, Habitats or Species' were finalized (some with alternatives to be considered) for submission to COP-6. The Chair of the Working Group on invasives stressed, however, the non-binding nature of the Guiding Principles. Below is a brief summary of them, and readers are urged to refer to the link below for the complete version being submitted to COP-6.

The Principles point to the unpredictability of pathways and impacts on biological diversity of invasive alien species. They urge that efforts to identify and prevent unintentional introductions as well as decisions on intentional introductions should be based on the precautionary approach (set out in Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and subsequently elaborated): lack of scientific certainty about the various long-term implications of an invasion should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take appropriate eradication, containment or control measures.

The Principles call for priority to be given to prevention as it is generally far more cost-effective and environmentally desirable than post-invasion measures. If introduction occurs, the Principles emphasize the importance of early detection and rapid action to prevent establishment, and give guidance on mitigation of impacts with eradication as the first choice; if eradication is not possible, containment and long-term control measures should be implemented (see below), with any costs and benefits analyses taking a long-term view. They recommend an ecosystem approach to invasives management. They lay out the responsibilities of member states in terms of the risks each poses as a potential source of invasives, and the measures to take both individually and cooperatively to minimize risk. The Principles make recommendations for research and monitoring (stressing the importance of a baseline taxonomic study of biodiversity and continuing monitoring), education and public awareness. For prevention, they endorse the importance of border control and quarantine measures based on risk assessment. They call for exchange of information and emphasize the need for cooperation and capacity building.

On the issue of introduction of species, the Principles give guidance on risk assessment and authorization procedures for intentional introductions. They outline provisions to address unintentional introductions and call for common pathways to be identified. For mitigation of impacts they advise: eradication where acceptable, safe, feasible and cost-effective; containment (limiting spread) by local eradication backed up by regular monitoring where eradication is not appropriate; and control measures focused on reducing the damage as well as reducing numbers. They suggest effective control will often rely on a range of integrated management techniques (mechanical, chemical and biological control and habitat management). Where biological control is implemented, this should be in line with existing national regulations and international codes, and introductions made only after risk assessment and authorization are completed.

Information sources:
A 'diary' of the meeting including the outcome of discussions is on the Internet at: 

The CBD website contains a wealth of further information. A large number of background documents were prepared on the invasive alien species issue for SBSTTA-6, 
and these are at:

The full report of the meeting including the revised Guiding Principles is at:

New SP-IPM Coordinator

The CGIAR Systemwide Program on IPM (SP-IPM) has seen recent changes in its Secretariat based at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Dr Peter Neuenschwander (Director, IITA-Plant Health Management Division) takes over from Dr Lukas Brader (Director General, IITA) as Leader of the programme, whilst Dr Braima James replaces Dr Richard Markham as SP-IPM Coordinator. Over the past 3 years, Braima worked closely with Richard on a number of SP-IPM tasks, and that eased the hand over.

Braima brings on board 20 years of post-PhD experience in strengthening pest management research, training and implementation in Africa. He holds a BSc (Hons) degree in Zoology from the University of Sierra Leone (his home country) and a PhD in Agricultural Biology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. Prior to joining IITA in 1993, Braima was a tenured faculty at the University of Sierra Leone and an FAO national plant protection expert in that country. He adds to SP-IPM a wide range of IPM implementation experiences on diverse projects and activities on food crops (e.g. root and tuber crops/cassava, grain legumes/cowpea, cereals/rice and maize), thematic networks (e.g. WAFRINET, the West African LOOP of the global taxonomic network BioNET INTERNATIONAL) and the CGIAR NGO-IPM network in Africa. Braima is keen on participatory extension and farmer training and shares such knowledge and experience through publications that aim to increase farm-level awareness and adoption of IPM. To pursue these interests, he participates actively in various in-country, regional and international meetings, conferences, study-visits and workshops to plan for the further development of IPM tools for research, training and implementation and to develop project proposals. Braima has held many important posts in civic/public/international affairs, is currently a Member of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa and of the African Association of Insect Scientists; had served as Vice President of the Sierra Leone Science Association, and was formerly a Fellow of the Royal Society of Entomology and Chartered Biologist (Institute of Biology).

Braima is married with 4 children, none of whom shows interest in `bug work'!

Contact: Braima D. James,
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture,
Plant Health Management Division,
08 B.P. 0932 Tri Postal, Cotonou,
Republic of Benin
Fax +229 35 05 56

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