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Ecological benefits of integrative weed management of Melaleuca quinquenervia in Big Cypress National Preserve

December 12, 2023

The southern tip of North America coalesces into one of the world’s largest freshwater wetlands, the Everglades, Florida, USA. Though this region is much like an island, home to high biodiversity and endemism, it is also the site of a century of development and associated landscape-scale species invasions. Melaleuca quinquenervia (hereafter melaleuca), a tree native to tropical Australia, was planted extensively throughout south Florida as street trees, levee stabilizers, and later to reduce standing water in marshy areas. Through extensive cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Australian Biological Control Laboratory, several biological control agents were released, three of which later successfully established. Herein we examine evidence that plant community shifts determined from vegetation surveys and remotely sensed images reflect changes from melaleuca-dominated wetlands (before management) to native communities (after management). Melaleuca-dominated community types decreased from 1990 to 2020 by more than 99%. Vegetation surveys also reflect an increase in cypress wetlands, pinelands, and open water wetlands, all of which were dominated by melaleuca in previous decades. We also found the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) increased in melaleuca-invaded wetlands during peak infestations but decreased again after communities recovered to sawgrass-dominated wetlands. These responses are concomitant with the development of integrative management techniques for melaleuca that include mechanical, chemical, and biological control. Our results confirm previous findings that biological control likely augments conventional management methods by limiting recovery of invasive species.

Publication Year 2023
Title Ecological benefits of integrative weed management of Melaleuca quinquenervia in Big Cypress National Preserve
DOI 10.1007/s10526-023-10229-y
Authors Melissa C. Smith, Paul Julien, Don DeAngelis, Bo Zhang
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title BioControl
Index ID 70251024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center