Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory
2010 Annual Report
Invasive weeds invade the Everglades ecosystem decreasing its biodiversity. The mission of this lab is to control these weeds by developing and introducing safe insects that reduce weed vigor. This project supports that mission by conducting testing of new biological control agents of Brazilian pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius. The health and functioning of the greater Everglades ecosystem is being compromised by the proliferation of this invasive exotic species. This species negatively affects biodiversity and proper functioning of the system. The plant presently covers over 280,000 ha in southern Florida alone.
Activities were monitored by weekly laboratory meetings and near-daily updates from the interns. Student interns assisted in laboratory tasks that supported quarantine risk assessment of prospective biological control agents of the invasive weed, Schinus terebinthifolius. Specifically their duties include maintaining laboratory colonies of quarantine biological control candidates, propagation of host plants for raising insects and test plants for conducting the experiments. Additionally, the interns assist in the collection of experimental data and in the data entry of the results. The interns also assist in laboratory research analyzing the chemical nature of host selection and utilization by these insects. These analyzes are presently underway and include nitrogen, amino acid, terpenoid, urushiols, and carbohydrate characterization of plant samples. These interns assisted in the recovery of a new species of Gracillariidae from Florida and South American Anacardiaceae species. Experimental data were obtained testing the suitability of several potential biological control agents, namely, Leurocephala schinusae, Eucosmophora schinusivora, Caloptilia schinusifolia, Marmara habecki, and Plectrophoroides lutra. Approved biological controls will reduce the health and vigor of these invasive weeds, reduce their damage to natural areas and agriculture, and reduce dependence on synthetic herbicides.