Modeling the long-term effects of introduced herbivores on the spread of an invasive tree
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Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake (hereafter melaleuca) is an invasive tree from Australia that has spread over the freshwater ecosystems of southern Florida, displacing native vegetation, thus threatening native biodiversity. Suppression of melaleuca appears to be progressing through the introduction of insect species, the weevil, Oxiops vitiosa, and the psyllid, Boreioglycaspis melaleucae.
To improve understanding of the possible effects of herbivory on the landscape dynamics of melaleuca in native southern Florida plant communities.
We projected likely future changes in plant communities using the individual based modeling platform, JABOWA-II, by simulating successional processes occurring in two types of southern Florida habitat, cypress swamp and bay swamp, occupied by native species and melaleuca, with the impact of insect herbivores.
Computer simulations show melaleuca invasion leads to decreases in density and basal area of native species, but herbivory would effectively control melaleuca to low levels, resulting in a recovery of native species. When herbivory was modeled on pure melaleuca stands, it was more effective in stands with initially larger-sized melaleuca. Although the simulated herbivory did not eliminate melaleuca, it decreased its presence dramatically in all cases, supporting the long-term effectiveness of herbivory in controlling melaleuca invasion.
The results provide three conclusions relevant to management: (1) The introduction of insect herbivory that has been applied to melaleuca appears sufficient to suppress melaleuca over the long term, (2) dominant native species may recover in about 50 years, and (3) regrowth of native species will further suppress melaleuca through competition.
KeywordsInvasive plant Insect herbivory Individual-based model JABOWA-II forest simulator Melaleuca quinquenervia Native species recovery
This work is the product of collaboration with researchers from USDA-ARS Aquatic Weed Research Laboratory, for which we are grateful. In particular, we thank Dr. Carol Horvitz and her lab, and Dr. Philip Tipping for their useful discussions; Rob Burgess for help compiling JABOWA-II. Comments from Jiang Jiang and Orou Gaoue greatly improved the quality of this paper. We gratefully acknowledge the comments from Dr. Julien Martin, Dr. Geoff Wang, and two anonymous reviewers. The USGS’s Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystem Science provided funding for supporting Ms. Bo Zhang’s research. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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