Invasive plant pathogens represent a threat to US agriculture, forestry and the environment. Accurate information on these pathogens is required to help prevent their introduction and spread. The Plant Pathogens Subcommittee of the US Federal Interagency Committee on Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens (ITAP) has identified the worst plant pathogen threats to the USA. CABI is commissioning the compilation of data on these plant pathogens to be published as full datasheets in the Invasive Species Compendium [www.cabi.org/isc] (an open access global resource currently containing over 10,000 datasheets).
Invasive species are causing species extinction. We are trying to address this problem by providing sound scientific information that will be used by endangered species managers to improve their efforts to recover listed and candidate species affected by invasive species. The information will also be used by invasive species managers to control invasive species that are causing species extinction in the USA.
An invasive weed with close relatives among native species is a challenge for biological control. Houndstongue was introduced accidentally to North America from Eurasia in the mid-19th century. It has since invaded most Canadian provinces and adjacent US states. There are many native plants in the USA in the same family as houndstongue. CABI staff in Switzerland are investigating specialized natural enemies in the area of origin of the weed that could be introduced as biological control agents.
Swallow-worts (Vincetoxicum nigrum and V. rossicum) are Eurasian plants that have become invasive in North America. The overall goal of the project is to identify specific natural enemies that can be introduced to North America as biological control agents for swallow-worts.
Native to Europe, toadflaxes were introduced to the USA and Canada over 100 years ago as ornamental plants. They now occur over much of temperate North America and are declared noxious in eight US states. CABI identifies specific natural enemies that can be introduced into North America as biological control agents to reduce the vigour, density and spread of this invasive plant.
Russian olive is a significant invasive weed in North America but is perceived as a useful and attractive tree by some stakeholders. It is especially a problem in western parts of the USA where it affects many natural habitats, altering the ecosystem and its functions. Biological control is a useful approach in such circumstances because scientists can look for natural enemies that damage reproduction, and thus future spread, without damaging established trees.
Common tansy is an aromatic Eurasian plant species with a long history of use as a medicinal herb. Introduced for this purpose to North America, it has since become invasive. One reason for this could be the absence of the natural enemies that keep it in check in its area of origin. CABI has been tasked with identifying specialist natural enemies from Eurasia that can be introduced into North America as biological control agents.
Russian knapweed is one of several invasive plants of rangelands that arrived in North America as a seed contaminant in the 19th century, in this case from Asia. Biological control is often a good approach for these plants, but a nematode species introduced in the 1970s proved ineffective against Russian knapweed. Funded by a US and Canadian consortium, CABI has been tasked with researching new biological control agents for introduction, some of which are already showing promise.