Publications: Peer-reviewed journal articles (by staff)

Concepts for biocontrol in marine environments: is there a way forward

3 March, 2015

Atalah J, Hopkins G, Fletcher L, Castinel A and Forrest B 2015. Concepts for biocontrol in marine environments: is there a way forward? Management of Biological Invasions 6: Pages 1-12.



The occurrence of problematic pest organisms is an increasing global phenomenon, adversely affecting a range of environments and associated values. In marine systems, the efficacy of pest control has to date been constrained by a lack of tools that are not only highly effective, but also applicable across broad spatial scales. Here we consider the extent to which biological control (biocontrol) has the potential to fulfil these needs. We describe different biocontrol approaches and potential ecological mechanisms (e.g. consumption, space competition, habitat modification) through which problematic species could be supressed. We also discuss the ideal traits of marine control agents within the context of the selection criteria commonly applied in terrestrial systems. Classical biocontrol based on the deliberate introduction of non-indigenous agents has a high risk of leading to adverse non-target effects in marine environments, and cannot be justified. By contrast, approaches that use indigenous species have a low risk of unacceptable non-target effects, and could be used as part of pest eradication, as a means of containing spread, or for the control of established pest populations to mitigate adverse effects. While biocontrol based on indigenous species can be highly effective for such purposes, it is unlikely that it could be feasibly applied at broad spatial scales, except in specific circumstances (e.g. in some types of aquaculture). There is clearly a need to develop new approaches to manage marine pests. Biocontrol when used in conjunction with traditional approaches can provide a valuable tool for pest eradication, containment and mitigation of adverse effects.