Project 6

Melaleuca population demographics and evolution of tolerance to biological control agents

An important tool in managing invasive species is biological control, where scientists introduce the invader's natural enemies such as herbivores, predators, or pathogens in order to reduce the growth rate and impact of the invasive species. Current chemical control method requires repeated applications of non-selective herbicides in sensitive areas like the Everglades. Biological control agents, being host specific and self-sustaining, will control re-growth without affecting native vegetation.

To determine how effective biological control is expected to be, it is necessary to know how the natural enemies will affect not just individual plants in laboratory conditions, but what their effect will be on the growth rates of natural populations of the invasive species in the field. In addition, it is also important to know if the invasive species may develop resistance or tolerance to the biological control agents over time.

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