Consequences of <I>Melaleuca quinquenervia</I> Invasion on Soil Nematodes in the Florida Everglades


  • Dorota L. Porazinska
  • Paul D. Pratt
  • Robin M. Giblin-Davis


diversity, ecology, enemy release, exotic plant, Florida Everglades, invasive, Melaleuca quinquenervia, nematode community, nematode diversity, plant-soil feedback, soil chemistry


The tree Melaleuca quinquenervia invades all types of habitats of South Florida leading to up to 80% loss of aboveground diversity. To examine impacts on the belowground ecosystem, we investigated the composition and diversity of nematodes from soils dominated by the invasive tree and compared them with soils supporting native plant communities at six locations across the Florida Everglades over three years. Despite the significant differences in soil type, hydrology, and native plant composition of the sites, there were consistent differences in nematode communities between soil environments under the native and invaded plant communities. The total abundance and diversity of nematodes in soils dominated by M. quinquenervia was 60% and 80% of adjacent soils under native plants. Fungal-feeding and plant-parasitic nematodes were twice as abundant under native plants as under M. quinquenervia. Nematode communities under M. quinquenervia were bacterivore-dominated, while under native vegetation plantparasite dominated. The overall diversity of nematodes was 20% lower under the exotic than under native plants, with plant parasites being 36% and fungivores being 30% less diverse. Soil moisture, % of Ca, Mg, and clay particles and total soil C and N were greater in M. quinquenervia soils, but plant-available concentrations of P, K, Ca, and Mg as well as CEC were reduced. Overall, data suggests that the invasion process may modify soil biotic and abiotic conditions that in turn promote the advancement of the exotic M. quinquenervia and displacement of the native plants.