Report for "Issues in Ecology and
Environment in Florida"
By Larissa Harris
Florida Gulf Coast University
Ft. Myers, Florida
a weedy exotic known as the Australian Pine, is a member of the beefwood family. The
deciduous Australian Pine bears tiny, hard pointed cone-like fruits and has an elegant
expression characterized by its gentle frail leaves. This tree can reach heights of over
This exotic species is not a pine but an angiosperm (flowering plant) that has photosynthetic stems with small whorls of leaves found at the joints of these stems. These trees are extremely accepting of salt spray and poor beach soils. Its off-shoots harbor small brown flowers which are wind-pollinated. Its cone-like fruits embody winged seeds that are about ½ in. in diameter. Common names are ironwood, beefwood, she oak, and horsetail tree.
The Australian pine migrated to the U.S. from Australia and the East Indies in the 1800. The quick growing thick umbrella of leaves offers impenetrable shade and quickly secured itself by competing auspiciously with native Florida vegetation, such as mangroves and cypress. Early settlers and big landowners favored the exotic and planted it widely for ditch and canal stabilization, lumber and shade purposes. They also believed it would offer relief from seasonal floods and help reduce the marshes.
The Australian pine's most significant footprint is evident along Florida's islands and shorelines, through it's intrusion of areas that have tolerated soil erosion and soil disruption. The lack of inhibiting factors in Florida allow the Australian pine to multiply in numbers at such a fast rate that they become unmanageable. When this exotic species takes over an area and becomes unmanageable, native Florida plants and animals are forced to compete for food and space. Diverse native shore species found along beaches dramatically decrease, are less rich in types of species, are less complex in food web structure and have less potential to adapt to changing conditions, making it difficult to grow where the exotic is dominant.
This resilient exotic disturbs native beach
vegetation, dunes, and animal species by modifying the light, temperature, and soil
chemistry administration of beach habitat. The thick shallow root system of the Australian
pine produces nitrogen and enables it to grow in nutrient poor soils, such as salt or
brackish waters. Due to the trees root system the Australian pine can easily get uprooted
blown around by hurricanes and strong winds. This can lead to beach and dune erosion and disruption of sea turtles nesting season. Native trees anchor and shelter shorelines protecting them from hurricanes.
Management approaches that would be beneficial in the preservation of native species, vegetation and animals alike include:
On a local scale
Manual extraction of light infestations of Australian pine saplings and seedlings. For larger infestations, the most practical management tool is to cut stumps, foliage, and apply a herbicide that effects the bark as a whole. Raking then removing leaf litter, cones, and seedlings is effective if done regularly.
On a global scale
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