Biological control agent selection under environmental change using functional responses, abundances and fecundities; the Relative Control Potential (RCP) metric

Ross N. Cuthbert, Jaimie T.A. Dick, Amanda Callaghan, James W.E. Dickey

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61 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract We currently lack the capacity to rapidly and reliably predict the efficacy of biological control agents due to inadequate consistency in derivations of functional and numerical responses and potential effects of context-dependencies. Here, we propose and apply a novel metric, Relative Control Potential (RCP), which combines the functional response (FR, per capita effect) with proxies for the numerical response (NR, agent population response) to compare agent efficacies, where RCP = FR × abundance (or other proxies e.g. fecundity). The RCP metric is a comparative ratio between potential biocontrol agents, where values > 1 indicate higher relative control efficacy. Further, RCP can compare the efficacy of agents under environmental contexts, such as temperature change. We thus derived the RCP for two predatory cyclopoid copepods, Macrocyclops albidus (Cyclopoida: Cyclopidae) and Megacyclops viridis (Cyclopoida: Cyclopidae), towards larvae of the mosquito Culex pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae) under temperatures representative of current and future climate. Both copepods exhibited potentially population destabilising Type II FRs, with increasing temperatures inducing greater magnitude FRs through increased attack rates and decreased handling times. Attack rates by M. albidus were higher than M. viridis, yet handling times and maximum feeding rates were similar between the species across all temperatures. The inclusion of abundance data drives an elevated RCP of M. albidus and the integration of fecundity drives greater RCP of M. albidus at peak temperatures. Q10 values are indicative of increased feeding activity by both copepods with temperature increases, however relative feeding level increases of M. viridis slowed towards the peak temperature. We present RCP calculations and biplots that represent the comparative efficacies of the two biological control agents across temperatures. The Relative Control Potential (RCP) metric thus provides a new tool for practitioners to better assess the potential efficacy of biocontrol agents before their integration into management approaches for pests, vectors and invasive species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-57
JournalBiological Control
Early online date07 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Functional response
  • Numerical response
  • Relative Control Potential
  • Culex pipiens
  • Macrocyclops albidus
  • Megacyclops viridis


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