Biological control of Parkinsonia aculeata: Using species distribution models to refine agent surveys and releases

Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Biological Control


Biological control of invasive weeds relies on the intentional release of host specific natural enemies from the native range of the weed to its invaded range. Development of distribution models for weed biological control agents presents several challenges; chief among these, especially early in biological control programs, is a paucity of ecological and biogeographic information on candidate agents in the native range to guide native range surveys or to optimise their release efforts in the invaded range. We took a ‘model tuning’ approach within the MaxEnt modelling framework to develop testable projections of the distributions of the two moth species Eueupithecia cisplatensis and E. vollonoides, biological control agent for the neotropical weed Parkinsonia aculeata. We tested these projections based on the known distribution of these moths in their native range and their population establishment in the invaded range. Our results identified new areas in the Americas where targeted surveys for these agents may be worthwhile, and also the potential for E. vollonoides to have a broader distribution in the invaded range as a biological control agent. Information gathered from future native range surveys and population establishment in the invaded range will serve as tests of the validity of the models generated and guide any refinements of the modelling framework. The approach we used may serve as a useful template for other systems with a similar paucity of information on the ecology and biogeography of the focal species, but where projections of potential distribution may be desirable.



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