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Simulation of post-hurricane impact on invasive species with biological control management

This project was supported by USGS EMA Invasive Species FY18 Cyclical Fund

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  • Understanding the effects of hurricanes and other large storms on ecological communities and the post-event recovery in these communities can guide management and ecosystem restoration. This is particularly important for communities impacted by invasive species, as the hurricane may affect control efforts. Here we consider the effect of a hurricane on tree communities in southern Florida that has been invaded by Melaleuca quinquevervia (melaleuca), an invasive Australian tree. Biological control agents were introduced starting in the 1990s and are reducing melaleuca in habitats where they are established. We used size-structured matrix modeling as a tool to project the continued possible additional effects of a hurricane on a pure stand of melaleuca that already had some level of biological control. The model results indicate that biological control could suppress or eliminate melaleuca within decades. A hurricane that does severe damage to the stand may accelerate the trend toward elimination of melaleuca with both strong and moderate biological control. However, if the biological control is weak, the stand is resilient to all but extremely severe hurricane damage. Although only a pure melaleuca stand was simulated in this study, other plants, such as natives, are likely to accelerate the decline of melaleuca due to competition. Our model provides a new tool to simulate post-hurricanes effect on invasive species and highlights the essential role that biological control has played on invasive species management.

    Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 58F15, 58F17; Secondary: 53C35.

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  • Figure 1.  a) Simulated basal area of 0.1 ha melaleuca stand at year 200. b)Simulated size structure near steady state of 0.01 ha melaleuca at year 200 of simulation

    Figure 2.  a-d. Simulated size structure near steady state of 0.01 ha melaleuca 4, 8, 16 and 32 years after application of strong biological control

    Figure 3.  a) Simulated decline in basal area of melaleuca stand after start of strong biological control in year 200 of simulation. b) Simulated decline in basal area of melaleuca stand after start of strong biological control in year 200 with moderate hurricane in year 216 of simulation

    Figure 4.  a-d. Simulated size structure near steady state of 0.01 ha melaleuca 4, 8, 16 and 32 years after application of moderate biological control

    Figure 5.  a) Simulated decline in basal area of melaleuca stand after start of moderate biological control in year 200 of simulation. b) Simulated decline in basal area of melaleuca stand after start of moderate biological control in year 200 with moderate hurricane in year 2016

    Figure 6.  a) Application of weak biological control decreases steady state values of total basal area of melaleuca stand to a lower level. b) Application of weak biological control decreases steady state values of total basal area of melaleuca stand to a lower level. The stand recovers from a moderate hurricane at year 400. c) Application of weak biological control decreases steady state values of total basal area of melaleuca stand to a lower level. The stand recovers only slowly from a strong hurricane at year 400. d) Effect of strong hurricane at year 400 on basal area of melaleuca stand when there is no biological control being applied. Although the effect on basal area is severe, recovery is faster than in the case where there is weak biocontrol

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