Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory2013 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
To reduce the invasibility and dominance of Brazilian pepper in agricultural and natural areas of the U.S. through the use of biologically based IPM.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Conduct foreign explorations to identify and prioritize potential agents for biological control. Testing will be conducted to determine suitability for safe biological control introductions. Suitability will be determined through feeding/oviposition/developmental trials on related plant species available in South America. Priority will be given to species that show a high level of specificity for the target weed and pose minimal risk to desirable plant species.
3. Progress Report:
This research directly relates to inhouse objective 3 - Conduct faunistic and floristic inventories to discover natural enemies that may serve as biological control agents for target weeds including, but not limited to Brazilian pepper, lygodium, downy rose myrtle, skunk vine and Chinese tallow. Additional biological control agents will be sought for species for which some control has been achieved, including melaleuca. The health and functioning of the greater Everglades ecosystem is being compromised by the proliferation of invasive exotic species. Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius Anacardiaceae), hereafter Schinus, is acknowledged to be one of the most harmful invasive plant species negatively affecting biodiversity and proper functioning of the system. Surveys in Brazil discovered a leaf gall former in the genus Calophya that was commonly seen causing considerable damage to the leaves of Schinus. Samples from 17 sites were collected in Brazil on Schinus and two other related plants, Schinus lentiscifolius and Lithrea molleoides. DNA barcoding analysis revealed three species of Calophya, one of which was new and undescribed. This new species is being described by experts in this group of insects. These results indicate that, where historically a single species was known feeding in Brazil on Schinus, there are at least three and probably more cryptic species that were revealed through molecular DNA techniques. Return surveys to this area are planned for the next year to continue examining this complex of undescribed species. When found these collections will be brought into quarantine for testing to determine their suitability for release.