Biological control of invasive non-native weeds: an opportunity not to be ignored.
The ecological and economic impacts of invasive species are significant and diverse in nature. Globalisation has led to increased introduction and establishment rates of invasive species in Europe, a trend which is likely to continue. The management of invasive weeds in Europe currently relies on chemical and manual methods which can be costly and environmentally damaging. Classical biological control (biocontrol) is proposed as a safe, cost effective, long term alternative/complementary method. The advantages of weed biocontrol have been documented across the world. This paper provides case studies of invasive weed biocontrol with examples including rubbervine, water hyacinth and leafy spurge. The paper demonstrates that Europe is lagging behind other regions in terms of biocontrol with only one example of a classical biocontrol release against an invasive weed. In 2010, following a thorough research programme, the first classical biocontrol release against a weed in Europe was conducted to manage the invasive, non-native Japanese knotweed in the United Kingdom. Further research is ongoing towards biocontrol of Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort, amongst others. An EU programme is underway to raise awareness of invasive species and assess management techniques, and includes trials to demonstrate the biocontrol of water fern at various locations including sites in The Netherlands. More European countries have started to show interest in this non-commercial control method and are advised to invest in existing weed biocontrol development and utilisation opportunities.