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Marsico, Travis [1], Cunard, Chelsea [2], Gravesande, Jarron [3], Hughes, Steven [4], Whitehurst, Lauren [5], Burgess, Kevin [6], Lucardi, Rima [7].

Invasive plant propagules are viable upon arrival at ports of entry.

International trade volumes and non-native plant richness are positively related, and seaports may be the initial terrestrial introduction sites of many invasive plant propagules. Seaports also possess low overall plant diversity but a high proportion of non-native species, and some of these species may hitchhike as propagules on the air-intake grilles of refrigerated shipping containers.  We collected 5504 fruits/seeds from 297 containers on 14 sampling trips between August 15, 2016 and February 27, 2017, at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, USA. All fruits/seeds were sorted by species into morphotypes, organized by collection date, and partitioned into vouchers for (1) morphological identification, (2) identification using DNA barcodes, or (3) for use in germination trials. We identified potential propagules from a total of 44 morphotype vascular plant species transported on refrigerated shipping containers. Germination trials for Type 1 (later identified morphologically and molecularly as a mix of Phragmites sp. and possibly Imperata sp. or Saccharum sp.) showed that out of 7 trials, 10% (164/1660) of the seeds germinated and 88% (145/164) of the seedlings survived to transplantation.  All live plants that were grown have been identified as Saccharum spontaneum L., a Federal Noxious Weed. Germination trials for Type 7 (later identified morphologically and molecularly as Typha sp.) showed that out of 11 trials, 38% (149/390) of the seeds germinated, and 100% of the seedlings survived to transplantation.  Our initial findings demonstrate that plant propagules hitchhiking across the globe because of economic trade via refrigerated shipping containers are viable, and that the more abundant propagules represent species of agronomic and biosecurity threats, including Federal Noxious Weeds (in the USA). Upon arrival at a seaport, commodities within and on shipping containers are then distributed by road and rail throughout the nation within 24 to 48 hours.  Therefore, a combination of understaffed agricultural inspectors, massive trade volumes, and swift transport of commodities to warehouses and consumer outlets suggest that a portion of cryptically hitchhiking non-native propagules may be moved from major seaports, inland, without interception or scientific awareness.

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1 - Arkansas State University, Department of Biological Sciences, PO Box 599, State University, AR, 72467, United States
2 - Arkansas State University, Biological Sciences, PO Box 599, State University, AR, 72467, USA
3 - University of Georgia , Athens, GA, USA
4 - University of Georgia , Herbarium, Athens, GA, USA
5 - Columbus State University, 242 GA Hwy 26, 242 GA Hwy 26, Cusseta, GA, 31805, United States
6 - Columbus State University, Biology, 4225 University Ave., Columbus, GA, 31907, United States
7 - USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Athens, GA, USA

invasive plants
Federal Noxious Weed

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ECO2, Ecology 2: Invasive Plant Species
Location: Tucson A/Starr Pass
Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
Time: 11:45 AM
Number: ECO2014
Abstract ID:631
Candidate for Awards:None

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