USDA Forest Service Southern Regional Task Force for the Assessment of Nonnative Invasive Species

(members during the period of these assessments)

James H. Miller, Task Force Coordinator and Research Plant Ecologist, Southern Research Station (SRS)
Erwin Chamliss, SRS Senior Technician, Database Manager

Executive Committee

Tom Peterson, Deputy Regional Forester, Natural Resource, Southern Region
Bruce Jewell, Assistant Director (now retired), SRS, Threats Research Area
Wesley Nettleton, Director, Southern Region Forest Health Protection (FHP)
James Fenwood, Director, Region 8 Biological and Physical Resources Unit

Technical Advisory Committee

Alix Cleveland, Southern Region Non-native Invasive Species (NNIS) Coordinator
Danny Lee, SRS Project Leader and Director Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
Don Duerr, Southern Region FHP Entomology Group Leader
Leigh Ann McDougal, Southern Region Fisheries Program Manager
John Taylor, Southern Region FHP Integrated Pest Management Specialist
Kier Klepzig, SRS Project Leader, Insects, Diseases and Invasive plants Research Unit
Dale Starkey, Southern Region FHP Pathologist
Don Tomczak (now retired), Southern Region Staff Forester
Carl Petrick, National Forest Systems (NFS) of Florida Staff Officer for Ecosystems
Jim Hanula, SRS Research Entomologist
Victor Rudis (now deceased), Research Forester, SRS Forest Inventory and Analysis
Tom Philipps, Botanist, NFS Texas
Pauline Spaine, SRS Pathologist

Assessment Team

Terrestrial Plants: James Miller and Tom Philipps
Aquatics Plants and Biota: Leigh Ann McDougal
Insects: Team led by Don Duerr with Kier Klepzig and James Hanula
Pathogens: Dale Starkey
Mammals: Mark Ford, Northern Experiment Station, Parsons VA
Earthworms: Mac Callaham
Fish: Kevin Leftwich, Regional Aquatic Ecologist, Athens, GA

Purpose and Organization

A priority action item in the USDA Forest Service Southern Regional Framework for Non-native Invasive Species (2003) was to “prioritize non-native invasive species (NNIS) posing the highest threats." The Southern Region Task Force for Assessing NNIS species was assembled in August 2006 to address this action item. The Task Force is composed of program directors and assistant directors, managers, staff and scientists from all branches of the U.S. Forest Service in the Southern Region and with one team member from the Northern Region. The purpose of the Task Force was to collaboratively construct a list of the most potentially damaging invasive species in the region and evaluate these relative to existing and new risk assessments. It is planned that after internal and external review that this "Priority Invasive Species List" will be used to focus programs and management using the “best available science.” Also, compiled was an accompanying Early Detection (Watch) List June 2008 Version of NNIS not currently in the Southern Region or are present only in limited occurrence that must be carefully monitored. During the research period, a "Complete List" of all Nonnative Invasive Species (NNIS) in Southern Forest and Rangeland Ecosystems June 2008 was initiated and will be updated as other invasive species are discovered.

It is recognized that a multitude of invasive organisms are present and invading the Southern Region and this process of assessment and listing will be continued in an adaptive cycle. The “Regional Framework” recognized that invasive species go across the landscape unbounded by ownership, which include National Forests and other agency lands surrounded by privately owned lands, cities, and municipalities. It was envisioned that the assessment process would lead to strategies for management, education, and research for each Priority Invasive Species applicable to all impacted lands and waters. An effective strategy will require that each National Forest and its multi-county and multi-partners and stakeholders construct their own prioroty list relevant to their invaders and landscape. The regional lists are meant to aid in this process, since invasions are occurring unevenly from different entry points, epicenters, and expanding fronts along with outliers infestations from long range spread. To be effective in combating alien invasions, a regional strategy must be formulated that enables networks of partners to support actions at the local level for eradication, control, or containment leading to restoration.

Guiding Principles and Approach

An invasive species is defined by Executive Order 13112 issued February 3, 1999 that was amended by the National Invasive Species Management Plan of 2001 defines an invasive species as: “A species is considered invasive if it meets two criteria: 1) it is nonnative to the ecosystem under consideration, and 2) its introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human, animal, and plant health.” The latter phrase contains recent modifications recommended to the National Invasive Species Council.

A compilation of "Candidate Priority Invasive Species" was assembled in latter 2006 and 2007 along with a list of NNIS assessment protocols being used in the United States. During 2007, assessment protocols were studied and it was concluded that for plants, the existing and ongoing NatureServe's U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) would be used. For insects and pathogens, the existing and developing North American Forest Commission's Exotic Forest Pest Risk Assessments (ExFor Rank) would be used. The Task Force would modify these protocols for the assessment of other taxa. These risk assessments will be ongoing and results will be posted as they are validated.

All invasive taxa have being considered for assessment and listing. Included are those NNIS that occur widely, those with restricted occurrence, and those that are in the Eastern U.S. poised to enter the Southern Region. Invasive species currently in tropical Florida are not included in the priority invasive database unless they were thought to have potential for eventual northern spread. NNIS were included that are recognized to represent or pose the most threat of damage to forest and rangeland ecosystems (plants-soil-water systems), their regeneration and sustainability, special habitat values, and amenities.

This June 2008 version has been developed from recommendations and reviews of lists by Forest Service scientists, staff officers, managers, botanists, and designated National Forest NNIS Coordinators; through study of the pre-existing "R8 Regional Forester's List and Ranking Structure of Invasive Exotic Plant Species of Management Concern (2001)" ; existing databases (e.g., Global Invasive Species Database, USDA NRS PLANTS Database, Federal and southern State Noxious Weed Lists, Lacy Act Prohibited List of Injurious Wildlife, USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species, University of Georgia's Bugwood Network compilations, Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council (PPC) and State PPC's invasive plant lists, Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group's Least Wanted List, etc.); existing NNIS assessments (e.g., NatureServe's U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank), North American Forest Commission's ExFor, NBII Invasive Species Information Node, University of Florida's Institute for Food and Agriculture's "Assessment of the Status of Invasive Plants in Florida's Natural Areas", North Carolina University's Flora of the Southeastern United States, Pest Tracker of the National Agricultural Pest Information System, USDA Forest Service Southern Region's Aquatic Non-native Invasive Species website, South Carolina's Plant Atlas, etc.); and many State extension service's fact sheets from across the U.S. were utilized. Input from experts at universities was requested when U.S. Forest Service expertise was absent (e.g., amphibians and reptiles by Dr. J.C. Maerz, University of Georgia). Plant names are according to PLANTS Database. Further review by Forest Service partners and stakeholders will be requested.

For more information or for reporting new invasives in the Southern Region please contact Alix Cleveland, Southern Region NNIS Coordinator ( or James H. Miller, Research Invasive Species Ecologist and Task Force Coordinator (