Suitability of a new plant invader as a target for biological control in Florida

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The suitability of a target weed for classical biological control should be considered early in the process of plant invasion. Concerns have been raised about the recent arrival of Mikania micrantha Kunth in south Florida and its potential to spread and invade natural and managed ecosystems. This weed is native to the neotropics, and has been introduced into many Asian countries and, more recently, into Australia. In Asia, M. micrantha is particularly problematic in plantation crops, but also threatens natural areas and disturbed ecosystems. Several aspects of the biology and ecology of M. micrantha are discussed in this review to evaluate its suitability as a target of biological control in Florida. Based on an ecological niche model, the climate in southern and central Florida is highly favorable for the invasion of this weed. Previous biological control programs provide valuable information for Florida scientists about the availability of natural enemies and potential areas for future foreign surveys. Genetic comparison of the Florida population and native range populations, in addition to climate matching, should be considered when selecting areas for foreign exploration. Finally, the authors used a scoring system and risk-benefit-cost analysis to evaluate M. micrantha as a potential target for biological control in Florida. We suggest that similar feasibility evaluations should be conducted not only for well-established problematic weeds but also for new invaders with a known history of invasiveness. © Weed Science Society of America.

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Invasive Plant Science and Management

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