Invasive species pose a serious threat to food security, biodiversity, water resources, human and animal health, and economic development. It is widely acknowledged that integrated control is the most effective strategy in managing invasive plants where it involves the use of herbicides, manual or mechanical control, and biological control agents in an integrated way. Last month, a short course on invasion biology and classical biological control of weeds was delivered at CABI in Pakistan.
Invasive alien weed species have been a global environmental and human health issue for decades. In 1969, CABI organised the first International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds (ISBCW) in Delémont, Switzerland. Weed biocontrol research was then in its early stages and 20 scientists attended.
Some of the world’s leading scientists in the field of alien invasive plants are to debate how best to tackle the scourge of a range of alien invasive plants – some of whose pollen can cause severe irritation in humans and threaten native ecosystems.
In March 156 delegates from 24 countries travelled to the Kruger National Park in South Africa to attend the XIV International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds (ISBCW) which was held at the Nombolo Mdhuli situated in the Skukuza Camp (2 – 7 March 2014). This quadrennial international symposium is a prestigious conference which provides delegates with an opportunity to present novel research on all aspects of biological weed control, to reflect on past experiences and discuss the way forward for the discipline and – this goes without saying – to catch up with old friendships and forge new ones. Three years on from the previous symposium in Hawaii and timed to commemorate “100 years of weed biological control in South Africa” 1, the African continent hosted the meeting for the second time in its history (the first time being the IX ISBCW held in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 1996). However, perhaps partly because of the increasingly severe constraints on funding and failure to gain official approval from respective governments/organizations, which made it impossible for many people to attend, this year’s symposium saw lower delegate numbers than previous ones. Some of the traditional “strongholds” in weed biocontrol, i.e. Australia, USA and Canada were clearly underrepresented, while the high number of European participants reflected the rapidly increasing interest in weed biocontrol in this part of the world. Sadly, apart from the participants from South Africa, only one other African country (Kenya) was represented. Last, but not least, it was an important and positive feature of attendance at this symposium that up-and-coming, younger scientists from all over the world were very well represented and the presence, prominence and enthusiasm of the next generation of weed biocontrol scientists at the XIV ISBCW seems to bode well for the future of the discipline.