Location: Pest Management Research Unit
Project Number: 5436-22000-017-00
Start Date: Feb 01, 2011
End Date: Jan 31, 2016
Exotic invasive weeds cause about $35 billion annually in economic losses in addition to environmental impacts ranging from displacement of species of conservation concern to altered ecosystem functions. Biologically-based control methods can provide cost-effective, sustainable means of limiting the adverse impacts of invasive plants over extensive rangeland and natural areas, but improvements in methodology are warranted. We propose that by better understanding invasive plant taxonomy, evolutionary relationships, origins, population structure and reproductive biology, we can identify more effective and lower risk insect and pathogen biological weed control agents. Additionally, understanding ecological interactions between insect and pathogen agents will let us employ their synergistic action. Biological control of weeds is a step towards returning to desired landscapes, with significantly reduced densities of noxious weeds and increased cover of native or other desired species. Establishing desired species cover in previously infested areas may require the application of successful restoration programs. We will examine the ecological and evolutionary processes that maintain desired communities, and then use this knowledge to improve rates of success in restoration. Additionally, successful biological control can leave a legacy of increased inoculum of soilborne pathogens, and we will investigate if this inhibits restoration efforts. This more holistic view of invasive weed management, starting with a better understanding of the basic biology of the invasion, including ecological and evolutionary studies of the biological control and restoration processes, will enhance our ability to replace invaded areas with ecologically sound and economically useful landscapes.