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Pre-emptive biocontrol risk assessment for high-risk biosecurity threats in New Zealand

The pre-emptive approach aims to address a major limitation in biocontrol practice – the lengthy pre-release risk assessment research in containment required for approval by regulators, which gives a pest additional time to establish, build population density and spread.

In what is considered to be a world-first, a pre-emptive application for the release of the Trissolcus japonicus (samurai wasp) in the event of a brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) incursion was approved. B3 science contributed to decision-making.

This one-year study led by entomologist Gonzalo Avila provided decision-makers with a set of guidelines to assist them assess future pre-emptive applications for high-risk invasive threats in advance of them becoming established.

Project abstract

Non-native invasive insect species are threatening biodiversity and food security worldwide resulting in substantial economic, environmental, social and cultural costs. Many invasive insect species (e.g. brown marmorated stink bug, BMSB) present an imminent threat to our valued plant systems and could result in multi-billion dollar losses to New Zealand’s (NZ) agricultural and horticultural industries, and threaten NZ’s native ecosystems and Māori taonga species.

Classical biological control (CBC) is frequently adopted as a cost effective component of integrated pest management programmes for sustainable management of invasive arthropod pests. However, CBC programmes are traditionally conducted once a pest has established, and invariably all research needed to achieve approval for release of a biocontrol agent and implementation takes several years, during which time pest impacts accelerate.

A pre-emptive biocontrol approach provides an opportunity to develop CBC for invasive pests prior to their arrival into NZ. A critical aspect of this approach is that risk assessment is carried out in advance. Implementing pre-emptive biosafety testing means that natural enemies can be selected, screened in containment or overseas, and potentially pre-approved prior to a pest establishing, thus, improving CBC efficiency. However, such an approach may not always be feasible.

This project aimed to define the fundamental prerequisites, principles and objectives of best-practice pre-emptive biosafety assessment. We used these to develop a robust set of guidelines and decision framework that can be used to assess the feasibility of conducting pre-emptive biosafety assessments for high-risk pests in future.

The future implementation of the guidelines developed in this project will provide applicants and end users with the opportunity to assess if biocontrol risk assessment against a high-risk pest can be initiated pre-emptively, and will contribute to biological control preparedness efforts against high-risk biosecurity threats.

Project Leader Gonzalo Avila: [email protected]

For more information on publications and other information visit Zotero

Access to Zotero can be found on the B3 homepage under ‘Outputs’.