The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) to issue permits for the release of the insect Lophodiplosis indentata (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) to biologically control Melaleuca quinquenervia (Myrtaceae) in the continental United States. Based on the environmental assessment and other relevant data, APHIS has reached a preliminary determination that the release of this control agent within the continental United States will not have a significant impact on the environment.
The proposed action is intended to reduce the severity of environmental damage to wetlands from the invasive Melaleuca tree in the continental United States. Melaleuca is native to Australia, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea and was imported into Florida in the late 19th century. It has since established in Florida’s wetlands, dramatically disrupting normal water, fire, disturbance recovery, and nutrient cycles—as well as impacting the amount of light available to other plants.
Releasing L. indentata will reduce Melaleuca’s presence in Florida. The fly’s host is the Melaleuca tree, where it lays eggs on new foliage. When the eggs hatch, the emerging larvae bore into the leaves, spurring abnormal growth that results in reduced sapling height. Classical biological control is a useful management strategy for an invasive plant species whenever effective natural enemies are not present in an invasive plant’s new environment.
APHIS is making the environmental assessment available to the public for review and comment. All comments received on or before Jan. 16, 2022 will be considered. To review the environmental assessment and make comments: Go to www.regulations.gov and enter APHIS-2021-0049 in the Search field.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.