Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 125–139 | Cite as

Natural-enemies affect the seed and litter fall dynamics of Melaleuca quinquenervia in the wetlands, and influence long-term species diversity in leaf-litter

  • Min B. RayamajhiEmail author
  • Paul D. Pratt
  • Philip W. Tipping
  • Ted D. Center
  • Jorge G. Leidi
  • LeRoy Rodgers
Original Paper


The exotic tree Melaleuca quinquenervia (melaleuca) has invaded and formed monotypic forest stands in ecologically sensitive wetlands of Florida. We hypothesized that natural-enemy impact would influence melaleuca’s litter and seed fall dynamics via chronic attacks, and enhance native species diversity, which will be reflected in leaf litter composition. This hypothesis was tested during 1997–2013 by studying melaleuca stands in occasionally inundated habitats infested by its natural enemies. Results from our study showed: (1) an initial increase in the leaf and seed fall during the first-half of the study period, followed by about 70% decline during remainder of the study period, (2) a positive correlation between the amount of leaf and seed fall, (3) a negative correlation between the proportion of natural-enemy damaged melaleuca leaf litter and the quantity of fallen seeds, and (4) a slow but steady increase of the non-melaleuca leaf litter amount by 81% and with a corresponding decrease in melaleuca leaf litter by 15%. Of the 17 non-melaleuca species recovered, we recorded two perennials at the onset of the study, which increased to seven during the second half of the study period, one of which was non-native. Cladium and Myrsine species produced significantly more leaf-litter by the end of the study period. Over 80% of the melaleuca leaf litter manifested natural-enemy damage during the last 7-year of the study period. These results provide evidence of a negative influence of natural enemy attack on melaleuca leaf and seed fall dynamics and a positive influence on native species diversity in the fallen leaf litter.


Weed biocontrol Melaleuca vs. non-melaleuca Litter composition Melaleuca quinquenervia Defoliation 



A portion of this long-term research was funded by the Department of Environmental Resources Management, Wetland Resources Section of the Miami Dade County, Florida from 1997 to 2013 as biocontrol agent production, dispersal and impact monitoring project. The major portion of the project cost (salary and some incidental expenses) was paid by the USDA/ARS allocated annual budget for the Invasive Plant Research Laboratory.


  1. Balciunas JK, Burrows DW, Purcell MF (1994) Field and laboratory host ranges of the Australian weevil, Oxyops vitiosa, a potential biological control agent of the paperbark tree, Melaleuca quinquenervia. Biol Control 4:351–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown VK (1984) Secondary succession: insect–plant relationships. Bioscience 34:710–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Center TD, Van TK, Rayachhetry M, Buckingham GR, Dray FA, Wineriter SA, Purcell MF, Pratt PD (2000) Field colonization of the melaleuca snout beetle (Oxyops vitiosa) in south Florida. Biol Control 19:112–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chaudhury D (1988) Herbivore induced changes in leaf-litter resource quality: a neglected aspect of herbivory in ecosystem nutrient dynamics. Oikos 51:389–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Crawley MJ (1987) What makes a community invasible? In: Gray AJ, Crawley MJ, Edwards PJ (eds) Colonization, succession and stability. Blackwell, London, pp 429–453Google Scholar
  6. Denslow JS, D’Antonio CM (2005) After biocontrol: assessing indirect effects of insect releases. Biol Control 35:307–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dray FA Jr, Bennett BC, Center TD (2006) Invasion history of Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T. Blake in Florida. Castanea 71:210–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fenner M, Lee WG (2001) Lack of pre-dispersal seed predators in introduced Asteraceae in New Zealand. N Z J Ecol 25:95–99Google Scholar
  9. Finlayson CM, Cowie ID, Bailey BJ (1993) Biomass and litter dynamics in a melaleuca Forest on a seasonally inundated flood plain in tropical, northern Australia. Wetl Ecol Manag 2:177–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Greenway M (1994) Litter accession and accumulation in a Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T. Blake wetland in south-eastern Queensland. Aust J Mar Freshw Res 45:1509–1519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hinz HL, Schwarzländer M (2004) Comparing exotic plants from their native and exotic range: what can we learn for biological control? Weed Technol 18:1533–1541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hoffmann JH, Moran VC (1998) The population dynamics of an introduced tree, Sesbania punicea, in South Africa, in response to long-term damage caused by different combinations of three species of biological control agents. Oecologia 114:343–348CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hudgeons JL, Knutson AE, Heinz KM, DeLoach CJ, Dudley TL, Pattison RR, Kiniry JR (2007) Defoliation by introduced Diorhabda elongata leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) reduces carbohydrate reserves and regrowth of Tamarix (Tamaricaceae). Biol Control 43:213–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hultine KR, Dudley TL, Koepke DF, Bean DW, Glen EP, Lambert AM (2015) Patterns of herbivory-induced mortality of a dominant non-native tree/shrub (Tamarix sp.) in a southwestern US watershed. Biol Invasion 17:1729–1742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Institute SAS (2011) The SAS System for Windows, Version 9.3. SAS Institute Inc., CaryGoogle Scholar
  16. Kahn DM, Cornell HV (1983) Early leaf abscission and folivores: comments and considerations. Am Nat 122:428–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kulman HM (1971) Effects of insect defoliation on growth and mortality of trees. Annu Rev Entomol 6:289–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lonsdale WM (1988) Litterfall in an Australian population of Mimosa pigra, an invasive tropical shrub. J Trop Ecol 4:381–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Louda SM, Keeler KH, Holt RD (1990) Herbivore influences on plant performance and competitive interactions. In: Grace JB, Tilman D (eds) Perspectives on plant competition. Academic Press, New York, pp 413–444Google Scholar
  20. MacLean DA (1984) Effects of spruce budworm outbreaks on the productivity and stability of balsam fir forests. For Chron 60:273–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martin PH, Canham CD (2010) Dispersal and recruitment limitation in native versus exotic tree species: life-history strategies and Janzen-Connell effects. Oikos 119:807–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mason RAB, Cooke J, Moles AT, Leishman M (2008) Productive output of invasive versus native plants. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 17:633–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mitchell CE, Power AG (2003) Release of invasive plants from fungal and viral pathogens. Nature 421:625–627CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Morath S, Pratt PD, Silvers CS, Center TD (2006) Herbivory by Boreioglycaspis melaleucae (Hemiptera: Psyllidae) accelerates foliar degradation and abscission in the invasive tree Melaleuca quinquenervia. Environ Entomol 35:1372–1378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Paynter Q (2005) Evaluating the impact of a biological control agent Carmenta mimosa on the woody wetland weed Mimosa pigra in Australia. J Appl Ecol 2005:1054–1062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pratt PD, Rayamajhi MB, Van TK, Center TD, Tipping PW (2005) Herbivory alters resource allocation and compensation in the invasive tree Melaleuca quinquenervia. Ecol Entomol 30:316–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pratt PD, Rayamajhi MB, Silvers CS, Ferriter A (2007) Naturalization and biomass allocation of the invasive tree Melaleuca quinquenervia in Wetlands of the Bahamas. J Aquat Plant Manag 45:8–16Google Scholar
  28. Pratt PD, Rayamajhi MB, Center TD (2008) Geographic range expansion of Oxyops vitiosa (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) to the Bahamian Archipelago. Fla Entomol 91:695–697Google Scholar
  29. Pratt PD, Rayamajhi MB, Tipping PW, Center TD, Wright SA, Purcell M (2013) Establishment, population increase, spread, and ecological host range of Lophodiplosis trifida (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), a biological control agent of the invasive tree Melaleuca quinquenervia. Environ Entomol 42:925–935CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Rayachhetry MB, Van TK, Center TD, Laroche FB (2001) Dry weight estimation of the above-ground components of Melaleuca quinquenervia trees in southern Florida. For Ecol Manag 142:281–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rayamajhi MB, Van TK, Pratt PD, Center TD (2006) Temporal and structural effects of stands on litter production in Melaleuca quinquenervia dominated wetlands of south Florida. Wetl Ecol Manag 14:303–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rayamajhi MB, Van TK, Pratt PD, Center TD, Tipping PW (2007) Melaleuca quinquenervia dominated forests in Florida: analyses of natural-enemy impacts on stand dynamics. Plant Ecol 192:119–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rayamajhi MB, Van TK, Pratt PD, Center TD, Tipping PW (2008) Aboveground biomass of an invasive tree melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) before and after herbivory by adventive and introduced natural enemies: a temporal case study in Florida. Weed Sci 56(3):451–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rayamajhi MB, Pratt PD, Center TD, Van TK (2010) Insects and a pathogen suppress Melaleuca quinquenervia cut-stump regrowth in Florida. Biol Control 53:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rayamajhi MB, Pratt PD, Tipping PW, Leidi JG, Dray FA Jr, Madeira PT, Center TD (2017) Attributes of naturally fallen (rained) Melaleuca quinquenervia seeds in two habitat types of South Florida wetlands. Am J Plant Sci 8:1659–1671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Risley LS (1993) Effects of simulated herbivore damage on survival of tree leaves. Environ Entomol 22:57–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Risley LS, Crossley DA (1988) Herbivore caused greenfall in the southern Appalachians. Ecology 69:1118–1127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rouget M, Richardson DM (2003) Inferring process from pattern in plant invasions: a semimechanistic model incorporating propagule pressure and environmental factors. Am Nat 162:713–724CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Schowalter TD, Hargrove WW, Crossley DA Jr (1986) Herbivory in forested ecosystems. Annu Rev Entomol 31:177–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith TJ III, Anderson GH, Balentine K, Tiling G, Ward GA, Whelan KRT (2009) Cumulative impacts of hurricane on Florida mangrove ecosystems: sediment deposition, storm, surges and vegetation. Wetlands 29:24–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tipping PW, Martin MR, Pratt PD, Center TD, Rayamajhi MR (2008) Suppression of growth and reproduction of an exotic invasive tree by two introduced insects. Biol Control 44:235–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tipping PW, Martin MR, Pratt PD, Rayamajhi MB, Gettys LA (2015) Resource regulation of an invasive plant by a classical biological control agent. Biol Control 85:12–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. von Ende CN (1993) Repeated-measures analysis: growth and other time-dependent measures. In: Scheiner SM, Gurevitch J (eds) Design and analysis of ecological experiments. Chapman & Hall, New York, pp 113–137Google Scholar
  44. White PS (1994) Synthesis: vegetation pattern and process in the Everglades Ecosystems. In: Davis SM, Ogden JC (eds) The Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, pp 445–458Google Scholar
  45. Wunderlin RP, Hansen BF (2003) Guide to the vascular plants of Florida, 2nd edn. University Press of Florida, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Min B. Rayamajhi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul D. Pratt
    • 2
  • Philip W. Tipping
    • 1
  • Ted D. Center
    • 1
  • Jorge G. Leidi
    • 1
  • LeRoy Rodgers
    • 3
  1. 1.Invasive Plant Research Laboratory, United States Department of AgricultureAgriculture Research ServiceFort LauderdaleUSA
  2. 2.Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit, United States Department of AgricultureAgriculture Research ServiceAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.South Florida Water Management DistrictWest Palm BeachUSA

Personalised recommendations