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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fort Lauderdale, Florida » Invasive Plant Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #420777

Research Project: Melaleuca Eradication and Other Exotic Plants: Implelment Biological Controls

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Mass rear biological control agents of invasive weeds and rapidly disperse them throughout the CERP landscape.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Biological control agents for use against invasive plants (e.g., Melaleuca, Lygodium, Schinus, Casuarina) in the greater Everglades region will be mass reared and dispersed into 11 x 11mi grid cells within the geographic boundaries of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Release sites will be monitored for population persistence, insect migration, and plant damage.

3. Progress Report:
This research relates to in-house objectives: 5. 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. The Everglades ecosystem of southern Florida constitutes a unique and irreplaceable milieu of natural habitats whose ecological integrity has been seriously damaged by more than a century of anthropogenic activities including agriculture, development, and accompanying hydrologic alterations. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) seeks to restore, preserve, and protect this World Heritage ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region. This project is a part of the CERP efforts and represents a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the South Florida Water Management District, and the USDA, ARS. One important factor contributing to the degradation of the Everglades ecosystem is the presence of invasive exotic plants that compete with and, in many cases, displace native plant species. The mission of the USDA, ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory (IPRL) is to develop biological control agents that halt the spread of invasive plants within the Everglades, interfere with their reproductive success, and reduce their competitive advantages over native species. As a first step to enhancing the IPRL’s ability to develop biological control agents for release in the Everglades, the USACE will construct an annex adjacent to the existing IPRL facility. Construction of the annex is ongoing, after being delayed for several months due to weather and contractor staffing issues. It is anticipated that IPRL staff will be able to occupy the building by the first quarter of FY14. IPRL staff are working with SFWMD and USACE staff to complete an operations manual describing the procedures to be used in the annex and in the field to assure maximum biological control agent presence and impacts throughout the Everglades.

4. Accomplishments