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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT & EVALUATION OF BIOLOGICAL CONTROL AGENTS FOR INVASIVE SPECIES THREATENING THE EVERGLADES & OTHER NATURAL AND MANANGED SYSTEMS

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

Title: Invasion of Caribbean Island Wetlands by Melaleuca quinquenervia

Authors
item Bernier, Loudres - DEPT NAT RES/PR
item Pratt, Paul

Submitted to: Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 15, 2007
Publication Date: August 15, 2007
Citation: Bernier, L., Pratt, P.D. 2007. Invasion of Caribbean Island Wetlands by Melaleuca quinquenervia. Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions.

Interpretive Summary: The Australian native Melaleuca quinquenervia has been introduced internationally for ornamental, timber, and soil stabilization purposes. M. quinquenervia was also planted in Florida, USA in hopes of drying up “useless” swamps so as to facilitate development. M. quinquenervia quickly naturalized in Florida and nearly 80 years after its introduction the tree was considered one of the most invasive plant species in the state. Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean Sea measuring some 170 km by 60 km. It is mostly mountainous with large coastal areas in the north and south regions. As a territory of the United States of America, the islands relationship provides opportunity for sharing governmental policy, including management of natural and agricultural resources. In the early 1900s, government agencies assiduously imported economic and ornamental species into local Puerto Rican nurseries and gardens. The earliest known records concerning the planting of M. quinquenervia on the island coincides with these efforts, dating back to the first quarter of the twentieth century. The broad use of M. quinquenervia as an ornamental continued until information concerning the invasion of the tree in nearby Florida was reported. In 1995 the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources reported the first M. quinquenervia stand consisting of approximately 20 trees. Ten years later the stand covered 638 m2 of wetland. A second larger stand has invaded 1.3 ha of sawgrass dominated wetland and a third stand was found within an estuary in the San Juan Metropolitan Area. This is a relatively early stage of invasion which may be averted with adequate follow-up efforts and continued vigilance.

Technical Abstract: The Australian native Melaleuca quinquenervia has been introduced internationally for ornamental, timber, and soil stabilization purposes. M. quinquenervia was also planted in Florida, USA in hopes of drying up “useless” swamps so as to facilitate development. M. quinquenervia quickly naturalized in Florida and nearly 80 years after its introduction the tree was considered one of the most invasive plant species in the state. Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean Sea measuring some 170 km by 60 km. It is mostly mountainous with large coastal areas in the north and south regions. As a territory of the United States of America, the islands relationship provides opportunity for sharing governmental policy, including management of natural and agricultural resources. In the early 1900s, government agencies assiduously imported economic and ornamental species into local Puerto Rican nurseries and gardens. The earliest known records concerning the planting of M. quinquenervia on the island coincides with these efforts, dating back to the first quarter of the twentieth century. The broad use of M. quinquenervia as an ornamental continued until information concerning the invasion of the tree in nearby Florida was reported. In 1995 the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources reported the first M. quinquenervia stand consisting of approximately 20 trees. Ten years later the stand covered 638 m2 of wetland. A second larger stand has invaded 1.3 ha of sawgrass dominated wetland and a third stand was found within an estuary in the San Juan Metropolitan Area. This is a relatively early stage of invasion which may be averted with adequate follow-up efforts and continued vigilance.

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
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