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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An 80-year search for a tree killer has ended, says a University of Florida forest pathologist who helped identify the fungus that virtually wiped out the Florida Torreya and fears it may threaten other species.
The fungus infects more than 90 percent of wild Florida Torreyas in their native range, which covers parts of North Florida and South Georgia close to the Apalachicola River, said Jason Smith, an associate professor with UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Smith is part of a research team that discovered the fungus, Fusarium torreyae, and formally described it in the journal Mycologia. Personnel from Atlanta Botanical Garden and the state Department of Environmental Protection are also involved.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When wildlife managers imported eight female Texas pumas in hopes they would mate with native Florida panthers, they knew they were taking a bit of a risk.
But a new University of Florida research study, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, suggests their gamble paid off.
Without those pumas, UF researchers Madan Oli and recent UF doctoral graduate Jeff Hostetler found that the probability of the Florida panther population falling below 10 panthers by 2010 was nearly 71 percent.
“We found that the Florida population would’ve declined, on average, by about 5 percent per year,” said Oli, a UF population ecology professor and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member. “And that’s essentially telling us there was a high chance that the population would’ve eventually gone extinct.”
There were an estimated 20 to 25 panthers left in the state when the Texas female cats were brought to Florida in 1995. Officials believe the population has since grown about 4 percent per year, and their estimate now ranges from 100 to 160, said Dave Onorato, a panther expert with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Panther Project.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Apalachicola-area oystermen and community leaders received a progress report Thursday from University of Florida scientists working to remediate the area’s oyster population collapse.
Karl Havens, director of Florida Sea Grant and leader of the UF Oyster Recovery Team, told a crowd of about 75 in Apalachicola that data being developed will help local industry representatives make management decisions to protect the area’s world-famous shellfish.
“A good path forward will be one where scientists like us can give the community information to empower them to participate in the protection of the Apalachicola Bay system and its fisheries,” Havens said.
At the meeting, members of the locally based seafood industry self-help organization Seafood Management Assistance Resource & Recovery Team, or SMARRT, announced plans for a stakeholders’ group. Made up of oystermen, shrimpers, crabbers, guides, dealers and other industry personnel, the 15-member group would enable the local seafood community to “speak with one voice” in communications with management agencies and research teams.
Chris Millender, a SMARRT ad hoc committee member and chairperson of the Franklin County Seafood Workers’ Association, said he hopes that with local expertise and scientific support, Apalachicola Bay can be managed sustainably and the oyster fishery collapse won’t be repeated.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Protecting Florida’s $80 million blueberry crop from freeze damage is always a wintertime challenge, but a University of Florida study shows that structures called high tunnels could shield plants from cold and promote earlier fruit ripening.
Though the initial investment can run from $18,000 to $25,000 per acre plus labor, high tunnels deliver better quality fruit, bigger early yields and higher prices if growers beat competitors to market, said Bielinski Santos, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The study, published in the current issue of HortTechnology, tracked two growing seasons on a commercial blueberry farm in Alachua County. The results showed that temperatures outside the tunnels plunged to freezing or near-freezing 61 times during the study. Temperatures fell that low just three times inside the unheated tunnels.
High tunnels may increase air and soil temperatures and protect the plants from wind and rain damage, leading to better flowering and more fruit, said Santos, based at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Many plant nurseries in Florida have adopted sustainable practices, and the University of Florida is looking to help even more do so with a new video series.
The series, titled Moving Nurseries Toward Sustainability, contains nine videos documenting sustainable practices that can be economically effective and environmentally friendly for nurseries.
Using interviews with nursery growers from Florida and Georgia, the videos show real-life examples of how growers have reduced water use, cut fertilizer applications, minimized runoff, found ways to reuse plastic containers and saved on energy costs by using conservation techniques.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For scientists, making field observations of organisms and ecosystems can be a daunting challenge.
Travel to remote locations is costly and difficult. Observation methods are limited and must be devised so that they only capture accurate, relevant data.
Satellite imagery is one alternative for assessing wild places, and it has some advantages over boots-on-the-ground observations, said Matteo Convertino, a research scientist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Responding to the oyster fishery collapse in Apalachicola Bay, experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida Sea Grant will join forces with local seafood producers to find ways of restoring sustainable populations of the area’s world-famous oysters.
“We’re extremely concerned and want to help however we can,” said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “An estimated 2,500 people work in Franklin County’s oyster industry and businesses closely allied with it. Many of them are now wondering how to put food on the table.”
In August, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a report with bleak projections for the 2012-13 oyster harvest.
When Florida’s oyster season opened Sept. 1, Apalachicola Bay oystermen found few harvestable oysters. Since then, Gov. Rick Scott has requested federal aid for the community and reports of oyster declines have come in from Dixie, Levy and Wakulla counties.
In recent years, Apalachicola Bay has produced about 10 percent of the U.S. oyster supply, and accounted for 90 percent of Florida’s harvest. The dockside value of Franklin County’s 2011 oyster harvest was $6.6 million.
On Friday, Payne announced formation of the UF Oyster Recovery Task Force and named Karl Havens to lead it. Havens is director of Florida Sea Grant.
The task force has multiple priorities, including: learning why oyster populations declined, finding ways to help them bounce back, and identifying solutions for social and economic impacts, Havens said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It might appear that the only people who profit from Florida’s forests are landowners, but a new University of Florida study says the trees provide valuable services to land users and people in surrounding communities.
As forests grow, they filter water, store carbon and perform other helpful functions that are known collectively as ecosystem services. These services are often overlooked by the public but UF researchers found a way to estimate their dollar value, which can exceed $5,000 per acre over 20 years.
Results from the two-year study, called the Stewardship Ecosystem Services Survey Project, were just published at http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/cfeor/SESS.html
Researchers hope the report increases awareness of the benefits of forestland and the opportunities that exist for Florida landowners, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“This is a groundbreaking study for Florida, because it actually gets into the numbers,” Payne said. “It establishes dollar values for some—not all, but some—of the benefits that forests create for our residents and visitors.”