Biological control of weedy native plants in Australia

Eligio Bruzzese and Ian Faithfull, Keith Turnbull Research Institute, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, PO Box 48, Frankston, Victoria 3199, Australia.


Biological control of weeds is the use of selected natural enemies of a plant to suppress its population to a more acceptable level, in areas where the plant is undesirable. It is a cost-effective weed management technique for larger infestations of weeds that have a lower priority for control by more rapid techniques such as herbicides. In Australia, as in other countries, the main thrust of biological control utilizes the classical approach that targets invasive exotic plants introduced without the natural enemies that suppress them in their area of origin. There is, however, a widespread belief that biological control is not possible or is inappropriate for native plants. Consequently only a small number of plants considered native to a country have ever been the targets of biological control and examples in Australia are rare.

In the last 200 years the intentional movement of native plants for horticulture, forestry and urban landscaping, coupled with changes in ecosystem management, have assisted a number of native Australian plants to become damagingly invasive within Australia. This paper looks at current efforts on biological control of weedy native plants in Australia and discusses possibilities for targeting additional species that are considered weedy. Current protocols for biological control of exotic weeds are examined and their use in biological control of native plants is discussed. We seek to demonstrate in principle that safe biocontrol of native plants in Australia is technically feasible and propose an institutional and legal framework in which it can be regulated.


Plant Protection Quarterly (2001) 16 (3) 129-132.