British Wildlife 35.4 February 2024

Making friends with natural enemies: a history of biocontrol in Britain

Invasive species cost the UK economy billions of pounds annually, and attempts to tackle them can be time consuming, impermeant and, occasionally, harmful to the environment. One potential low-cost and low-impact approach to reducing the harm caused by invasives is biocontrol – the introduction of specialist predators or parasites present in the invasive species’ home range. Here, Christopher Berman, Anna Tilling and Sonal Varia introduce the history and painstaking research behind biocontrol and its use in tackling some of the most troublesome invasive plants in Britain.

Invasive non-native species are one of the most significant threats to biodiversity and lead to huge economic costs, through impacts ranging from losses in crop production to infrastructural damage (Diagne et al. 2021). A recent study estimated that invasive species cost the UK economy more than £4 billion per year (Eschen et al. 2023).

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