Can plant invasions be prevented? Multidisciplinary identification and interception of non-native, invasive plants at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, USA
Non-native (or exotic), invasive plant species are moved by humans or natural dispersal events, from one continent to another. Invasive plants negatively impact the economy, ecology, and agro-security of the nation. The southern region of the U.S. is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, with major ports on both coastlines, including Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Miami, and Savannah. The South is also home to many pervasive and costly invasive plants and animals. Collaborative research led by the Forest Service seeks to evaluate if major seaports, such as the Port of Savannah, are hot-spots of non-native plant diversity and gateways of non-native plant dispersal. Floristic surveys were conducted at the container terminal and the scientists found the Port of Savannah to have low overall plant diversity but disproportionately high non-native plant species-richness when compared to regional surveys. They collected seeds from refrigerated shipping containers, with focus on a single agricultural commodity over two seasons at the Port of Savannah. Working with multiple herbaria, they utilized a two-pronged approach to identify plants from both floristic surveys and seed collections: morphological (taxonomic keys) and molecular (DNA barcoding). They also found invasive, listed Federal Noxious Weeds, and the study remains on-going.
Forest Service Partners