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Invasive alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) in the southeastern United States: a future research plan
Proceedings of the 2022 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2022 Authors: Schmid S.A., Ervin G.N., Turnage G.

Invasive aquatic plants have the capacity to fundamentally alter the structure and function of the systems they inhabit. Alternanthera philoxeroides (alligator weed) is an emergent aquatic amaranth that is native to South America and invasive in many regions globally. Historically, invasion (and management as a result) has been most intense in the southeastern United States, however, there are substantial invasive ranges in Australia, New Zealand, and East Asia. In invaded sites, alligator weed can alter system structure by forming dense mats of shoots at the water's surface. These mats can displace native plants that are important food and habitat for aquatic fauna. In the United States, biocontrol of alligator has primarily focused on the insect vector Agasicles hygrophila (Alligatorweed flea beetle). The success of alligator weed biocontrol in geographic locations with climate conducive to the survival of the flea beetle led to global adoption of this strategy in areas of similar climate. This allowed aquatic plant managers in these areas to shift their focus and resources to other target species. However, alligator weed continues to colonize newer and more environmentally diverse ecosystems with climate not suitable for the survival of the flea beetle. This poses new problems for alligator weed management. This presentation 1) summarizes the historic research and management paradigms for alligator weed, 2) contextualizes the literature with the current status of alligator weed, 3) discusses the future of alligator weed biocontrol in the southeastern United States, and 4) exhibits preliminary research efforts at Mississippi State University including alligatorweed phenology and integrated management utilizing herbicides and a second insect vector, Amynothrips andersoni (Alligatorweed thrips).

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