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Tradescantia fluminensis, an exotic weed affecting native forest regeneration in New Zealand: Ecological surveys, safety tests and releases of four biocontrol agents from Brazil

Fowler, Simon V., Barreto, Robert, Dodd, Sarah, Macedo, Davi M., Paynter, Quentin, Pedrosa-Macedo, José H., Pereira, Olinto L., Peterson, Paul, Smith, Lindsay, Waipara, Nick, Winks, Chris J., Forrester, Guy
Biological control 2013 v.64 no.3 pp. 323-329
Kordyana, Lema, Tradescantia fluminensis, biological control, biological control agents, biomass, forest regeneration, fungi, herbivores, host range, host specificity, insects, invasive species, larvae, leaves, natural enemies, pathogens, stems, surveys, weeds, Brazil, New Zealand
In the native range of Tradescantia fluminensis in SE Brazil surveys revealed a natural enemy biota attacking the plant that was rich in potential biocontrol agents for New Zealand (NZ), including nine fungi and 10 herbivorous insect species. Similar surveys in NZ, where T. fluminensis is an invasive exotic weed, revealed no specialist insect herbivores or pathogens. The Brazilian insect herbivores included leafmining, stemboring and gall-forming feeding guilds that were absent in NZ. Mean foliar damage levels per site on T. fluminensis were 7.8× higher for folivores in Brazil cf. NZ, and 21.2× higher for pathogens. The presence of rust pustules, or ‘brown lesions’, on leaves in Brazil was negatively associated with damage by folivores, perhaps indicating an antagonistic interaction. In contrast, damage by the white smut fungus, Kordyana sp., was not negatively associated with folivore damage. Mean dry biomass of T. fluminensis was significantly lower in Brazil (164gm−2) cf. NZ (455gm−2). In NZ, 85% of sites had biomass measures >200gm−2 (the previously determined threshold above which native forest regeneration fails). In Brazil, only 27% of sites had biomass measures >200gm−2. Among the insect herbivores, three chrysomelid beetles, Neolema ogloblini, Neolema abbreviata and Lema basicostata were prioritised as potential biocontrol agents. Their larvae cause potentially complementary damage to leaves, shoot-tips and mature stems, respectively. Several pathogens, including a rust, were rejected before we selected the Kordyana species. Host range testing of all four agents showed sufficient host-specificity for consideration for release in NZ. Neolema ogloblini and L. basicostata were field-released in NZ in 2011 and 2012, with the field-release of N. abbreviata due late 2012. An application to release Kordyana sp. in NZ has been made.