Biology and management of the invasive weed Ageratina adenophora (Asteraceae): current state of knowledge and future research needs.
Biological invasion is increasing worldwide and the management of invasive species is becoming an important priority for vegetation managers. Success of invasive species management depends on a thorough understanding of the biology of the organism in question and the effectiveness of current management efforts, in order to identify the best practices for management improvement. In this review, we synthesised current biological knowledge of a noxious invasive weed Ageratina adenophora to identify knowledge gaps and assessed management efforts to identify best practices. Finally, we proposed some priority areas for future research to fill knowledge gaps and improve management. Our analysis showed that A. adenophora has already invaded 40 countries, mainly in Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe. Phenotypic plasticity, allelopathic interference and invasion-mediated changes in the soil microbial community are the proposed mechanisms that facilitate rapid spread of this weed. However, allelopathy as a mechanism of invasion success of this weed has not been supported by ecologically meaningful experiments. Though mechanical, chemical and biological control measures have been used, their success remains limited and the weed continues to spread in new regions. Among seven biological control agents examined to date, gall fly (Procecidochares utilis) and leaf spot fungus (Passalora ageratinae) have been effective in limited areas to suppress growth of this weed. Some perennial native grasses (e.g. Setaria sphacellata and Lolium perenne) have shown potential to competitively suppress A. adenophora. In conclusion, understanding the invasion mechanisms, exploring further to identify effective biological control agents, combined with approaches of ecological restoration, could help in the management of this weed.