Between 2000 and 2008, the Division of Ecological Restoration engaged in the control of the invasive species Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) through the Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project. Today, while DER is no longer actively engaged in these biocontrol activities, DER continues to provide limited assistance to individuals seeking technical advice related to Purple Loosestife biocontrol activities. The links provided below contain more detailed information for people who may be interested in engaging in Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol efforts.
Please note that the following links are provided for informational purposes only. DER is not actively recruiting new Biocontrol release sites at this time.
Background on Biocontrol of Invasive Species
Invasive species pose a serious threat to the health and integrity of all ecosystems, including wetlands. An invasive species is a species that does not naturally occur in a specific area and whose introduction causes economic or environmental harm.
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is an aggressive, invasive plant originally from Europe and Asia. In the United States, there are no native "predator" species that control purple loosestrife populations. As a result, this invasive plant can spread rapidly in wetlands and cause significant impairments, including reduced native plant coverage, lower plant diversity, and degraded wildlife habitat.
Biocontrol agents are natural competitors imported from the invasive's native landscape to a location where the invasive is growing out of control. For purple loosestrife, select species of beetles from Europe (where purple loosestrife is native) were studied to demonstrate their effectiveness as biocontrol agents. These beetles (Galerucella sp.) have been used successfully in the United States to control purple loosestrife infestations since the early 1990s. Treatments have occurred in all of the New England states, including Massachusetts, where beetles were first released on National Wildlife Refuges (Great Meadows NWR and Parker River NWR).
WRP Biocontrol Project
The Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) initiated a pilot Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project in 2000. The overall goal of the project is to enhance the health, condition, and diversity of habitats and native species within wetlands that have been degraded by purple loosestrife infestations. As of 2008, DER has facilitated beetle releases at 43 sites in Massachusetts. Volunteer organizations have participated in beetle rearing, beetle release, and spring and fall site monitoring. Extensive monitoring of treatment sites has occurred to document the effects of the beetles on purple loosestrife growth and the establishment of self-sustaining beetle populations. Several sites in Massachusetts have shown successful reductions in purple loosestrife coverage and vigor after multiple beetle releases over three to four years.
In the past, DER assisted partners with site selection, regulatory coordination, beetle releases, and monitoring. Presently, DER is not actively releasing beetles or supporting new sites for treatment. However, staff continue to provide support in an advisory capacity
DER has collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife on this biocontrol effort since 2005. Support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been instrumental in expanding the project at a limited number of sites.
Please see the links above or contact Georgeann Keer / 617-626-1246 for more information on the DER Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project.
Photos from Cutler Park Site in 2006 and taken by Damon Carter.
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