Optimal Control for a Dispersing Biological Agent

By Chalak, Morteza | Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, August 2014 | Go to article overview

Optimal Control for a Dispersing Biological Agent


Chalak, Morteza, Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics


(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Agricultural activities can lead to costly environmental problems across the world (Conway and Pretty, 1991; Stanners and Bourdeau, 1995; Bignal, 1998; Krebs et al., 1999; Pretty et al., 2000). One of these activities is the introduction of biological agents to control invasive species. Many studies show that the benefits of introducing a biological agent outweigh the costs (e.g., Julien and White, 1997; McConnachie et al., 2003; Jetter and Paine, 2004). Optimal timing of introducing biological agents depends on the ecological and economic conditions. Odom et al. (2003), for example, suggested that it is optimal to introduce biological control for a weed when the number of viable seeds of the weed per site exceeds 250. However, introducing biological agents can impose large ecological and economic costs to the environment. For example, in North America, an herbivore used for biological control of the invasive Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcher) also attacked a valuable, protected plant species, Platte thistle (Cirsium canescens) (Louda et al., 2003, 2005). These attacks may occur despite regulatory tests. For example, Larinus planus L. (an herbivore) was introduced to control Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in North America, but it had a greater negative impact on a native thistle than on its target (Arnett and Louda, 2002; Louda and O'Brien, 2002).

Introduced species can target endemic species in different parts of an ecosystem. Some authors have highlighted a problem in which biological control agents introduced into agricultural areas to control weeds have spilled over to other areas, where they have potential to cause the extinction of highly valued plant species (Suarez, Bolger, and Case, 1998; Symondson, Sunderland, and Greenstone, 2002; Cronin and Reeve, 2005; Rand, Tylianakis, and Tscharntke, 2006; Wirth et al., 2008; Chalak et al., 2010; Richards et al., 2010). This paper analyzes cost-effective control strategies to manage such biological agents that act as invasive species and spillover from a managed compartment to a natural compartment and target an endemic species.

Literature Review

Previous literature on the control of unwanted and invasive species falls into four main groups. The first group includes a considerable body of literature with a greater focus on temporal aspects of invasive species control and less focus on spatial aspects. Odom et al. (2003) studied the optimal strategies to control scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius, L.) in an Australian national park. Chalak, Ruijs, and Van Ierland (2011) studied the control of Californian thistle (Cirsium arvense) in New Zealand agriculture, and Burnett, Pongkijvorasin, and Roumasset (2012) studied optimal management options for brown tree snakes in Hawaii. Chalak and Pannell (2012) studied the control of blackberry in Australia. Most of these studies suggest that highly effective control strategies can be optimal, despite their higher costs, because they can minimize the infestation area and the future spread.

The second group of literature studies the spatial aspects of invasive species control. Brown, Lynch, and Zilberman (2002) analyzed spatial-temporal externality aspects in the management of invasive insect in wine grape farms. Epanchin-Niell and Wilen (2012) examined the spatial nature of optimal control of invasive weeds. Papers in this group mainly conclude that the size, location, control costs, and history of invasion are important factors affecting optimal control. They largely recommend putting control in the locations that impose lower control costs and/or stop the invasion spreading to a larger scale. For most cases, they recommend control if control costs are not large.

The third group analyzes the economics of multicompartment systems in which one species is potentially invasive to all compartments and can spread among them. In the multicompartment system literature, each compartment has different landowners. …

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