Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory2012 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
To discover and identify natural enemies of Lygodium in its native range, conduct host specificity testing on promising enemies, petitioning for the release of suitable biocontrol agents with the potential for controlling Lygodium, colonizing the agents, and monitoring their effects on the target weed and on non-target vegetation.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Research will be conducted in the Australian Biological Control Laboratory in Brisbane and in the Austral-Southeast Asian Region and will focus on the discovery and identification and prelimary host range testing of promising biological control agents. Full host specificity testing will be conducted in domestic quarantine, after which appropriate agents will be petition for release, then after permission to release is obtained, mass reared, colonized and then monitored to determine their establishment and potential impact on Lygodium and non-target vegetation.
3. Progress Report:
This project relates to in-house objective 5 - to release, establish, evaluate efficacy, and corroborate environmental safety of approved biological control agents and develop and distribute the technology to customers in order to expedite their adoption and deployment. Exotic invasive weeds from overseas pose a severe threat to native plants and ecosystems within the United States. The mission of USDA-ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory is to find environmentally friendly, biologically based strategies for long-term sustainable management of invasive weeds within the United States. Old World climbing fern, Lygodium microphyllum, is recognized as one of the three most damaging invasive weeds currently impacting natural ecosystems in Florida. The research described below supports the mission of the national program by furthering progress towards sustainable management of L. microphyllum. Populations of the brown lygodium moth, Neomusotima conspurcatalis, have survived into their fifth year at release sites in southeast Florida. As moth populations have fluctuated over recent years, there have been corresponding reciprocal changes in ground cover of L. microphyllum. When populations of the moth decline, reductions in feeding by caterpillars allow re-growth of L. microphyllum. When large populations of the moth are present at sites, defoliation by caterpillars causes considerable reduction in ground cover of L. microphyllum. The population at Jonathan Dickinson Park has proven especially resilient, having survived several frost and fire events. Several tree islands at Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge harbor healthy populations, as does a cypress head along the perimeter of the park. The moth is spreading from these established populations, but apparently slowly. Colonization efforts with the lygodium moth, Austromusotima camptozonale, have been ongoing at several sites but thus far there is no evidence that persistent moth populations have established.