Distribution of Parthenium hysterophorus and one of its biological control agents (Coleoptera: Zygogramma bicolorata) in Nepal.
Parthenium hysterophorus is a noxious invasive weed of both agricultural and natural ecosystems, spreading aggressively in Nepal. Management of this weed in Nepal has been limited, mainly because of the lack of geo-referenced data concerning the weed's distribution. We conducted a nationwide survey of P. hysterophorus and its coleopteran biological control agent Zygogramma bicolorata from 2013 to 2016 to determine their spatial distribution. Both were widespread, with the distribution of Z. bicolorata lagging behind the invasion front of P. hysterophorus. The weed was present in 21.2% of the 4838 locations examined, including several isolated satellite populations. The weed was found in the Tarai, Siwalik, Middle Mountains and High Mountains regions, reaching up to 2000 m asl. It has invaded natural and modified ecosystems including all six protected areas in the Tarai and Siwalik regions. Road access appears to be the major pathway for its long-distance dispersal. Zygogramma bicolorata had spread from the east to the west and was present in 15.4% of the weed occurrence locations, inflicting a low amount of damage. A CLIMEX modelling projection revealed the presence of additional geographic areas in Nepal which are climatically suitable for both P. hysterophorus and Z. bicolorata. Eradication of satellite populations of the weed by physical and chemical measures, and the release of Z. bicolorata into new, but climatically suitable, locations should be prioritised for P. hysterophorus management in Nepal. In conclusion, P. hysterophorus has rapidly become widespread in Nepal and the currently available biological control agent has not been able to prevent further spread of the weed.