Applying for general release or release with controls
Natural host range
New organisms alter the relationships within in food webs through herbivory, competition, predation, parasitism. Biological control agents with a narrow host range are likely to alter food web relationships in a new environment less than biological control agents with a wider range, and so pose less risk of adverse environmental effects. The first step in assessing the environmental safety of a biological control agent is therefore to determine the range of hosts attacked by the proposed biological control agent in its natural host range.
The sources for information about the taxonomy, biology and distribution of species are large and diverse. There are regions of the world, such as Europe, where the biota is well-known and well-documented. Information may be available from published accounts and national databases. Species may be well-known in the scientific literature, perhaps through previous use as a biological control agent, or in other studies. Free web search engines such as Google Scholar [http://scholar.google.com] may access these papers. Subscriber web search engines and specialist sources such as the 'Web of Science' or 'Web of Knowledge' may reveal these and related references. CAB Abstracts is probably the leading English language abstracting service for agricultural literature.
Targets for biological control often originate from regions where the flora and fauna are poorly known and recorded. In this case the applicant must resort to the primary sources such as individual scientists in the region, collections, or to undertake or contract research in the native range in order to elicit the information that the EPA requires to make an informed determination.
Taxonomy and biology