Modeling the long-term effects of introduced herbivores on the spread of an invasive tree

Landscape Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Context

Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake (hereafter melaleuca) is an invasive tree from Australia that has spread over the freshwater ecosystems of southern Florida, displacing native vegetation, thus threatening native biodiversity. Suppression of melaleuca appears to be progressing through the introduction of insect species, the weevil, Oxiops vitiosa, and the psyllid, Boreioglycaspis melaleucae.

Objective

To improve understanding of the possible effects of herbivory on the landscape dynamics of melaleuca in native southern Florida plant communities.

Methods

We projected likely future changes in plant communities using the individual based modeling platform, JABOWA-II, by simulating successional processes occurring in two types of southern Florida habitat, cypress swamp and bay swamp, occupied by native species and melaleuca, with the impact of insect herbivores.

Results

Computer simulations show melaleuca invasion leads to decreases in density and basal area of native species, but herbivory would effectively control melaleuca to low levels, resulting in a recovery of native species. When herbivory was modeled on pure melaleuca stands, it was more effective in stands with initially larger-sized melaleuca. Although the simulated herbivory did not eliminate melaleuca, it decreased its presence dramatically in all cases, supporting the long-term effectiveness of herbivory in controlling melaleuca invasion.

Conclusions

The results provide three conclusions relevant to management: (1) The introduction of insect herbivory that has been applied to melaleuca appears sufficient to suppress melaleuca over the long term, (2) dominant native species may recover in about 50 years, and (3) regrowth of native species will further suppress melaleuca through competition.


Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeling the long-term effects of introduced herbivores on the spread of an invasive tree
Series title Landscape Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s10980-017-0519-6
Volume 32
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 15 p.
First page 1147
Last page 1161