Exotic plant species in Mississippi, USA: Critical issues in management and research

GR Matlack

Abstract

Little is known about the distributions, patterns of invasion, biological impacts, or basic ecology of introduced plant species in Mississippi, USA, and adjacent Gulf Coast states. To assess current knowledge and establish priorities for research and management in the state of Mississippi, a consensus document was prepared by the Delphi method, a consultative process involving repeated querying of 43 experts from academia, conservation organizations, and state and federal governments. The group agreed that the most serious threats were posed by Pueraria montana var. lobata Willd. (kudzu), due to its ability to overwhelm natural vegetation; Ligustrum sinense Lour. (Chinese privet), due to its effective dispersal and broad environmental tolerances; Sapium sebiferum (L.) Roxb. (Chinese tallow), based on observations of rapid spread in adjacent Louisiana and Texas; and Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. (cogongrass), due to its rapid spread and ability to alter fire dynamics. Introduced species in Mississippi appear to suppress all vegetation types equally; communities of conservation concern are not disproportionately affected. Research and management priorities should include elucidation of species' reproductive and dispersal biology, assessment of chemical and mechanical suppression methods, and public education.