The goal of this study was to evaluate the biological control program of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) in a large natural area, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, western North Dakota, USA. Aphthona lacertosa and Aphthona nigriscutis have been released at more than 1800 points in the 18,600-ha South Unit of the park beginning in 1989; most releases have occurred since 1994. We established permanent vegetation plots throughout the infested area of the park and determined stem counts and biomass of leafy spurge and abundance of the two flea beetle species at these plots each year from 1999 to 2001. Both biomass and stem counts declined over the 3 years of the study. Both species of flea beetle are well established within the park and have expanded into areas where they were not released. A. nigriscutis was more abundant than A. lacertosa in the grassland areas we surveyed, but in all other habitats abundances were similar. Using structural equation models, only A. lacertosa could be shown to have a significant effect on counts of mature stems of leafy spurge. A. nigriscutis numbers were positively correlated with stem counts of mature stems. Previous year's stem counts had the greatest influence on change in stem counts over each 2-year time step examined with structural equation models.
Additional publication details
Temporal dynamics of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and two species of flea beetles (Aphthona spp.) used as biological control agents