, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 151-165
Date: 29 Jul 2011

Biological control of Melaleuca quinquenervia: an Everglades invader

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Abstract

A massive effort is underway to restore the Florida Everglades, mainly by re-engineering hydrology to supply more water to the system at appropriate times of the year. However, correcting water flow patterns alone will not restore the associated plant communities due to habitat-transforming effects of invasive species, in particular the Australian wetland tree Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S. T. Blake (Myrtales, Myrtaceae), which has invaded vast areas and transformed sawgrass marshes into dense, biologically impoverished, structurally altered forest habitats. To address this threat, an invasive species reduction program was launched that combined mechanical removal and herbicidal control to remove mature trees with the release of specialized insects to suppress seed production and lower seedling survival. Melaleuca has now been removed from most public lands while biological control has limited its ability to regenerate and reinvade from nearby infestations often located on unmanaged privately held lands. This case illustrates how restoration of highly modified ecosystems may require both restoration of physical conditions (water flow), and suppression of high impact or transformative invaders, showing well the need to integrate biological control into conservation biology.

Handling Editor: Roy van Driesche