Integrating Chemical Ecology and Biological Control of Invasive Plants
Biological control is one of the few tools capable of managing widespread exotic plant invasions, which, at its most successful, can offer long-term solutions to weed problems. However, some biological control agents obtain approval and are released, but fail to impact weed populations. This is troublesome because exploration, testing, and approval for each agent take many years and is estimated to cost several millions of dollars to complete. Moreover, ineffective agents can persist and cause unwanted ecological changes in the communities in which they occur. A major goal of my research is to better understand the interactions between biocontrol agents and their invasive host plants to identify the factors which promote or limit successful biocontrol. My approach is to apply the chemical ecology of plant-herbivore interactions to classical biological control of weeds – two fields which have largely progressed independently to date. Chemistry plays a central role in determining ecological outcomes between plants and insects, and should provide information that can be used to better predict which potential agents are most likely to be effective.
Invasive plant species currently under study include rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea), houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale), and tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea).
GSD Principal Investigators
|Runyon, Justin||Research Entomologist||406-994-4872|
Cooperators and Sponsors
David Weaver, Montana State University