About a year ago wildfires burned nearly 300 acres of land around Florida Gulf Coast University – giving researchers a unique opportunity to learn more about getting rid of Melaleuca.
The Melaleuca tree is non-native – and threatens other species. It was first introduced in Florida in the 1920’s as a way to help dry up the Everglades for development. It’s now found throughout the state. Eradication efforts range from physically removing the trees – to using bugs that eat them. Scientists at FGCU had already introduced the snout weevil, and the sillid fly…when the fire swept through. FGCU professor - Dr. Win Everham – says that although Malaleucas are normally fire resistant – the combination of fire and bugs may give biologists a better weapon.
“What we’re finding now following the campus fire is that fire in the presence of these biological control agents might end up being an effective 1-2 punch and is really knocking back some of the Malaleuca. When they were stressed by the fire, they sprouted back out…and the biological control agents attacked those sprouts and put additional stress, and they’re dying.”
Dr. Everham says wildfires generally HELP Malaleuca trees propagate – causing the tree to release millions of its tiny seeds, and seldom killing the original tree. But, he says, because the snout weevil and sillid fly rebounded so well after the fires, they in effect had an incredible surplus of food… that is: those new, budding Malaleuca trees.
Wednesday, 01 June 2005 01:00