Ever since water hyacinth was first reported on Lake Victoria in 1989, this invasive species has wreaked havoc on the lake and the valuable biodiversity that depend on it for survival. Although there is no disagreement regarding how much destruction water hyacinth has caused, there is an ongoing debate concerning the factors that brought about its decline in 1998.
Some scientists agree with the argument presented by Wilson et al. (2007) that wet and cloudy weather patterns caused by El Nino played a vital role in the water hyacinth’s decline in the second half of 1997 and the first half of 1998. However, others believe that, as Williams et al. (2005) argue, that the introduction of Neochetina spp., or weevils, in Lake Victoria as a form of bio-control was responsible for this drop.
Specifically, Wilson et al. state that the four-year gap between when weevils were introduced in Lake Victoria in 1995 and when they started to produce results is consistent with results of other bio-control agents in other countries. Thus, they argue that weevils were primarily accountable for the water hyacinth decline since their effects occurred in accordance with those of other species. On the other hand, Williams et al. assert that prolonged sub-optimal light will reduce growth and reproduction rates of plants while enhancing the results of other debilitating forces, including weevil herbivory. Therefore, the stormy weather in 1998 provided ideal conditions for impeding the spread of water hyacinth, and thus aided the weevils in declining the water hyacinth population.
I think that the argument of Williams et al. is more convincing since it acknowledges that El Nino weather patterns were not solely responsible for causing the decline in water hyacinth, but rather that the combined effects of El Nino and the weevils enabled the decline. Even if the weevil population did only begin to produce results after four years, it is undeniable that the El Nino patterns contributed to their efficacy.
The MODIS satellite images taken in 2005 and 2006 that display the resurgence of water hyacinth on Lake Victoria demonstrate that bio-control is not a fully reliable method of managing invasive species. They show that bio-control may sometimes be an effective strategy, yet its efficacy often falls short. Thus, scientists should not completely depend on this method to eradicate an invasive species, and both invasive species and bio-control agents should be regularly monitored to avoid resurgences.
NASA Earth Observatory. 2007. Water Hyacinth Re-Invades Lake Victoria. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/veiw.php?id=7426. Viewed 27 January 2010
Williams, A.E, R.E Hecky and H.C. Duthie. 2007. Water hyacinth decline across Lake Victoria- Was it caused by climatic perturbation or biological control? A Reply. Aquatic Botany 87:94-96
Wilson, J.R.U., O. Ajuonu, T.D. Center, M.P. Hill, M.H. Julien, F.F. Katagaria, P. Neuenschwander, S.W. Njoka, J. Ogwang, R.H. Reeder, and T. Van. 2007. The decline of water hyacinth on Lake Victoria was due to biological control by Neochetina spp. Aquatic Botany 87: 90-93