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Heather beetle as a biological control agent for invasive heather in New Zealand

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7 May 2013, 11am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen
for scientists, researchers and other interested parties
Paul Peterson (left) and Paul Barrett (right)

Paul Barrett of Massey University and Paul G. Peterson of Landcare Research, both New Zealand will deliver this seminar entitled "Heather beetle as a biological control agent for invasive heather in New Zealand" at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen. It will be broadcast live to the Dundee site.


Heather was deliberately introduced into Tongariro National Park, New Zealand, 100 years ago to create grouse habitat. Grouse were introduced shortly after to provide game for shooters but they failed to establish. Today heather is the worst environment weed in and around the Park (now a World Heritage Area) outcompeting and dominating native vegetation over more than 50,000 ha.

The heather beetle was imported from the United Kingdom into New Zealand in 1992 in an attempt to control heather. Following the first field releases in 1996 success in localised areas has been promising. However problems with establishment success and population growth rates may be related to a poor climate match and low heather foliar nitrogen levels. These problems may be exacerbated by a genetic bottleneck caused by poor original establishment from the progeny of just two females.

We describe problems encountered and progress made over the duration of this project and look for ways to improve beetle performance for faster, more sustainable heather management in Tongariro National Park and surrounding areas in the future.


Paul Barrett and Paul Peterson have over 40 years of combined experience in invertebrate ecology and weed biocontrol and have worked together on the heather biocontrol project since 1997. Paul Barrett is a Technical Manager at the Ecology Department, Massey University, Palmerston North and Paul Peterson works on classical biological control at Landcare Research, Palmerston North, as part of the invasive weeds team based in Christchurch.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.