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Heather biocontrol in Tongariro National Park

28 Apr, 2011

15 years after heather beetles were introduced to control Scotch heather growth, they finally seem to be having an impact.

Listen to audio: Heather biocontrol in Tongariro National Park

Duration: 18:01

Heather – a problem weed

Scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris) was introduced between 1912 and 1922 to the central North Island with a view to establishing grouse hunting. While the grouse quickly succumbed to the area’s harsh winters, the heather thrived and is now a problem weed covering 50,000 hectares in Tongariro National Park and on nearby New Zealand army land. While the original vegetation in the area was a diverse mix of tussock and other plants, the heather outcompetes other plants, creating a monoculture.

Heather beetle biocontrol

In the early 1990s, Landcare Research began to investigate the possibility of biocontrol and imported the heather beetle from Scotland. After captive breeding for several years to eliminate pathogens and parasites, heather beetles were released from 1996 onwards.

Beetle is winning the battle

Paul Peterson from Landcare Research tells Alison Ballance the heather beetle has been slow to establish, but it finally seems to be gaining the upper hand at one site, and the researchers now have a few ideas as to why it has taken so long for anything to happen and what they might do in future to speed things up.

Programme details: Our Changing World

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