Invasive species cause significant ecological and economic harm, and therefore effective management strategies are of utmost importance. One common yet controversial method proposed to control invasive plant species is biological control. This issue explores how relatively short-term ecological research can be combined with matrix modeling to evaluate the likely success of biological control. Students will incorporate research data into a modeling program to determine the effects of biocontrol on the population growth rate of an invasive species. Further, they will explore the consequences of introducing a biological control agent and discuss the associated risks and benefits. This issue, particularly Figure Set 2, is most appropriate for use in an upper-level ecology or population ecology course.
biological control, demography, herbivory, indirect effects, invasive species, matrix modeling, population ecology, plant tolerance, trophic cascades
The authors would like to thank E.A. Pardini and the students in the Population Ecology course at Washington University in St. Louis for encouraging the continued development of this activity and Washington University and the National Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number #05-2290, for financial support.
Schutzenhofer, M. R. and T. M. Knight. February 2009, posting date. When Biocontrol Isn’t Effective: Making Predictions and Understanding Consequences. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 6: Issues Figure Set #1 [online]. http://tiee.ecoed.net/vol/v6/figure_sets/biocontrol /abstract.html
The invasive plant, Lespedeza cuneata. Photo credit: Michele Schutzenhofer
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