FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 17, 2009
CONTACT: Diana Eissing, (904) 823-4500
Marguerite Jordan , (850) 245-2112 or (850) 528-8206 (cell)
GTM RESEARCH RESERVE RECRUITING ASSISTANCE TO EASE
RED BAY EPIDEMIC
~ Workshop will explain experimental treatment, precautions and volunteer opportunities to help alleviate effects~
PONTE VEDRA BEACH – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) will host a seminar Tuesday, January 20, to educate landscapers and pest control companies about the biological, impacts and experimental fungicide treatment of Laurel Wilt Disease. The disease, which has spread as an epidemic across many southern states with few options available for treating it, is killing Redbay trees (Persea borbonia). The trees contract the disease through a fungus spread by a species of ambrosia beetle, more commonly referred to as "redbay beetle."
"There are still many more questions than answers in respect to this epidemic," said GTM Research Reserve Biologist Scott Eastman. "That's why GTM Research Reserve is taking every precaution to prevent loss of the Reserve's Redbay trees. An estimated 40-50 percent of the Reserve's mature Redbay trees have already been lost as a result of this disease."
The Redbay tree population, which is abundant throughout coastal plains from Virginia to Louisiana , is an important food source for forest animals, migrating birds, wild turkeys, quail, deer and black bear. It's also the host plant for the Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly. In addition, Redbay leaves are used widely by southern chefs to spice gumbos and Italian sauces.
A recent research trial conducted by the Florida Division of Forestry (DOF) revealed that injections of a systemic fungicide treatment are able to protect Redbay trees from developing Laurel Wilt Disease for more than a year. At Tuesday's workshop, speakers with the DOF will explain these results and demonstrate the technique used to deliver this particular fungicide injection.
To ensure that the Redbay trees at the reserve are not lost, the reserve staff is participating in a program initiated by the U.S. Forest Service to collect Redbay tree seeds and other closely related species. These seeds will then be preserved and stored at the National Seed Laboratory in Georgia , along with seeds from other threatened native species. The seeds will be available for replanting to replace trees killed by the epidemic, if necessary. Volunteers can sign up to help with the seed collection by contacting the Reserve's Volunteer Coordinator, Angel Gonzalez at (904) 823-4500. GTM Research Reserve will also host a Brown Bag Lecture on the Laurel Wilt Disease that will be open to the public on Friday, February 6th at the GTM Research Reserve Environmental Learning Center .
The GTM Research Reserve was established as a partnership between the state of Florida and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The reserve is one of 27 research reserves operating across the nation and one of three in the state. Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) manages the (GTM Research Reserve) along with aquatic preserves, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Coral Reef Conservation Program. CAMA's programs and activities are designed to help Floridians better understand and conserve the state's resources through research, education and preservation.
For more information on the GTM Research Reserve visit www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/gtm/guana_river.htm or www.gtmnerr.org.
To learn more about the Laurel Wilt Disease visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/foresthealth/laurelwilt/index.shtml.