The Systematic Reconnaissance Flight (SRF) surveys were initiated to give South Florida’s operational resource managers a tool to quickly and affordably assess target plant populations and gauge successes and/or failures. The SRF method is widely used in tracking wildlife (Russell et al. 2002, Dalrymple, 2001, Mauro et al. 1998). They involve flying at a fixed height and speed across a study area on a predetermined transect while observers count targets (plants or animals) in a strip of land on either side of the aircraft.
The initial SRF survey for Melaleuca quinquenervia in Southern Florida was conducted by the United States Forest Service in 1980 (Cost and Craver, 1980). This survey was initiated by the USFS to estimate forested and non-forested land cover in the area south of Lake Okeechobee. As part of this work, the researchers measured the extent of melaleuca coverage and densities. This survey was conducted before the use of GPS technology was available to the general public.
Paper maps were used to record information along transect lines. The transects were spaced 2.5 miles apart, east and west across the southern part of the state of Florida. The data derived from this survey was valuable in documenting the problems associated with melaleuca in the Everglades, and helped legitimize the issue in the State.
In the early 1990s, the South Florida Water Management District and the National Park Service began conducting independent, parallel SRF surveys for exotic plants in the region. The District surveys covered the entire peninsula south of the north rim of Lake Okeechobee. The transects were modeled after the USFS 1980 survey and were spaced at 2.5 mile intervals, east and west across the state.The Park Service surveys focused on National Park lands in the region. The transects were finer - 1 km apart - and observers deviated from the transect when they encountered exotic plant populations. Both surveys recorded both plant species and density classifications.
In 1999, the District and the Park Service began collaborating in conducting the bi-annual surveys. The surveys are now nested - the District survey uses 4 kilometer transects, and the Park Service uses 1 km transects – and the transects overlap on Park Service lands. Through the TAME Melaleuca project, the District and the National Park Service are able to extend the boundaries of the ongoing South Florida SRF program to include the majority of the range of Melaleuca (north to Orlando) in Florida and the Bahamas.
The Florida Systematic Reconnaissance Flight survey was extended north to Orlando in an attempt to capture the distribution of Melaleuca quinquenervia throughout its nonnative range in Florida. This survey was conducted in January 2005 and detected significant populations throughout Central Florida.
In 2005, TAME Melaleuca funding also allowed the District and the National Park Service to conduct a pilot project to evaluate the use of US Forest Service Digital Aerial Sketchmapping (DASM) technologies to track melaleuca and other invasive plants in the Greater Everglades.
This technology was developed by the US Forest Service to provide a tool for tracking forest health. It combines the use of trained observers and mobile maps - allowing observers to use high resolution images as a background while they “sketch” observations onto a digital map. Cooperators are in the process of conducting an accuracy assessment of these data to evaluate the future use of this technology in the region in lieu of or in conjunction with the ongoing District/NPS SRF program.
An aerial survey for Melaleuca quinquenervia in the western Bahamas (New Providence, Andros, Grand Bahama and the Berry islands) was completed in July, 2004. Significant melaleuca populations occur on these islands. Observers recorded melaleuca populations on GPS data recorders from a fixed wing aircraft flying 1 kilometer transects east/west across each island. This survey identified important populations of this species.
TAME Melaleuca is also arranging for communication between individuals who are monitoring melaleuca outside Florida and is using National Park Service Staff in the Caribbean to document Melaleuca quinquenervia populations in that region. Initial surveys have been completed by National Park Service cooperators in the Virgin Islands and Grenada. Samples have been transferred to USDA/ARS Davie lab for chemical race analysis.
An agreement was entered into with botanists at the Institute for Regional Conservation to conduct a herbaria search of all Melaleuca quinquenervia populations outside Australia to document range and verify identifications. Regional and major herbaria will be searched for collections in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico the Bahamas, and other applicable areas of the Caribbean.
View a list of team members.