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Publication #FE673

Benefit-Cost Analysis of Melaleuca Management in South Florida1

Katherine Carter-Finn, Alan W. Hodges, Donna J. Lee, and Michael T. Olexa2


Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is a technique that has been used extensively to help determine the economic viability of legislation and investment projects. Since the 1930s, BCA has been used by many U.S. agencies to determine if the benefits of their policies outweigh the costs to society (Prest and Turvey 1965). Many past U.S. Presidential administrations have recognized the value of this type of analysis because it requires one to clearly delineate the costs and benefits of a proposed policy/course of action (Whittington and Grubb 1984). There are many definitions of what constitutes a BCA; however, there are generally some key similarities between the definitions of the process. One description suggests that BCA is a “generic term embracing a wide range of evaluative procedures which lead to a statement assessing costs and benefits relative to project alternatives” (Sassone and Schaffer 1978). Another more specific definition states that it is “a process of identifying, measuring, and comparing the social benefits and costs of an investment project or program” (Campbell and Brown 2003). BCA has also been described as a procedure for “measuring the gains and losses to individuals, using money as the measuring rod of those gains and losses, and aggregating the money valuations of the gains and losses of the individuals and expressing them as net social gains or losses” (Pearce 1983).

While the biological research on Melaleuca is quite extensive, there is a noticeable paucity of socio-economic research on this invasive species. A few researchers have sought to analyze the economic impacts of Melaleuca in Florida. Balciunas and Center (1991) discussed the prospects and dilemmas that could arise if biological control is used in the fight against Melaleuca. They also conducted a benefit-cost analysis under the worst-case scenario in which Melaleuca is allowed to spread unchecked. Diamond, Davis, and Schmitz (1991) considered the economic impact associated with the addition of Melaleuca to the Florida Prohibited Aquatic Plant List. Their analysis included an extensive benefit-cost analysis of the effect of Melaleuca on eco-tourism, sport fishing and hunting, agriculture, and ecosystems generally. Both of these studies, however, were done during the early stages of the Melaleuca eradication/treatment initiative, and many changes have taken place since then.


In this study of benefits and costs of Melaleuca control, primary data were gathered through mailed surveys of professional land managers and resident households in 10 counties of south Florida during 2003 (see companion reports FE671 and FE672). This analysis was focused on valuing benefits to ecological function, agricultural productivity, agricultural land market value, and recreational benefits from Melaleuca treatments on public and privately held lands. Values reported in the survey were expanded to represent the population of agricultural managers in south Florida. It was assumed that benefits can only accrue in areas where Melaleuca was actually killed and that those benefits accrue immediately after treatment. In addition, it was assumed that treatments were 90 percent effective (Laroche and Taylor, pers. comm.).

A mathematical model was developed that relates the benefits of Melaleuca control to the area treated on specific land uses. Monetary values associated with loss in ecological function due to Melaleuca infestation were based on average global values for ecosystem services as shown in Table 1 (Costanza et al., 1997). Monetary values associated with loss in recreational value on park/preserve lands were based on estimates of the direct economic impacts of visitors at state and national parks in the study area, based on number of visitor days, by local and non-local visitors, and average spending per visitor, per day (Baxley, pers. comm.; MGM2, 2003).

Four equations were specified to capture the benefits of Melaleuca treatment/removal. Figure 1 shows the steps involved in the estimation of benefits. Park/preserve lands were evaluated for the benefits to ecological function and recreational benefits, while agricultural lands were evaluated for benefits to ecological function, agricultural productivity, and agricultural land market value. The average value of agricultural goods produced in the survey area was used as a proxy for agricultural productivity ($1,034 per acre), while the average market value of agricultural land ($7,017 per acre) was taken from the 2002 Agricultural Census (USDA-NASS 2002). The analysis accounted for the 23 percent average loss in recreational value of park/preserve land due to Melaeluca infestation as reported by professional park/preserve managers (Table 2).

Figure 1. 

Calculation of benefits of Melaleuca control.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

The issue of fire danger associated with dense Melaleuca stands has been documented over the years. Fire-fighting cost estimates were compiled from Florida Division of Forestry (FDOF) and municipal fire departments (Wasil and Lewis, pers. comm.). Costs per acre range from $2 to $10 for wildland fires and $6 to $30 for municipal fires.

Calculations of costs for Melaleuca control were taken from survey results for expenditures by professional managers and resident households.


The total benefits of Melaleuca control in south Florida in 2003 were estimated at $23.26 million (Mn), including $13.38 Mn for ecosystem function, $6.68 Mn for agricultural land markets, $2.15 Mn for agricultural productivity, $703 thousand for recreation, and $360 thousand for avoidance of fire damages (Table 3). Total benefits due to Melaleuca control on public lands in 2003 were estimated at $14.02 Mn, while benefits on private agricultural lands were estimated to be $9.24 Mn.

Total expenditures for Melaleuca controls during 2003 were estimated at $10.87 Mn for park/preserve managers and $1.18 Mn by agricultural managers. Expenditures for Melaleuca control by resident households in 2003 were estimated at $13.21 Mn. In addition, costs for the TAME Melaleuca program in 2003 were $915 thousand.

The resulting benefit-cost ratio for Melaleuca control for all types of land use in 2003 was 1.76. The BC ratio for park/preserve lands was 1.29. The BC ratio for agricultural lands was higher (7.83) because these properties have the additional benefits of agricultural productivity and market value. Also, agricultural managers reported lower costs since they have not been treating Melaleuca as aggressively, and therefore have a greater marginal value at this stage of their control efforts.

Conclusions and Implications

The results of this analysis support the assertion that Melaleuca control in Florida provides a net benefit to society since the benefit-cost ratio is greater than one (1.76). Therefore it is recommended that public funding for control efforts be maintained at current levels or increased.

The vast majority of treatments to control Melaleuca in south Florida occur on public lands. This is due to the legal mandate that requires public agencies to remove invasive plants from their management areas. Greater control efforts are needed on private lands in order to stop the continued spread of Melaleuca in the state. To achieve greater control on private lands, it may be necessary to enact more stringent laws requiring effective control treatments, assigning specific penalties for those in violation of the control laws, and providing more rigid enforcement of these laws. This would require greater efforts by enforcement agencies. Another way to achieve greater control of Melaleuca would be to implement a requirement for Melaleuca removal in the state building code.

To date, there is no one agency that comprehensively monitors the level of infestation and treatments used to control Melaleuca in Florida. It would be helpful to have a database of the areas infested and treated each year, and the costs for those treatments. It would also be helpful to determine the typical time-course of treatment effects in order to better assess the benefits of control measures. Conducting additional studies to develop specific ecosystem values for Florida rather than relying upon global value estimates would improve the accuracy of cost-benefit analysis of Melaleuca control in the state. As part of the TAME Melaleuca program, follow-up surveys will be conducted to measure adoption of recommended management practices.


Balciunas, J.K., and T.D. Center. 1991. Biological Control of Melaleuca quinquenervia: Prospects and Conflicts. Proceedings of the Symposium on Exotic Pest Plants, edited by T.D. Center, R.F. Doren, R.L. Hofstetter, R.L. Myers and L.D. Whiteaker, pp. 1-22. NPS/NREVER/NRTR-91/06. Denver, CO: National Park Service.

Campbell, H., and R. Brown. 2003. Benefit Cost Analysis: Financial and Economic Appraisals Using Spreadsheets. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Costanza, R., R. dArge, R. de Groots, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R.V. ONeill, J. Paruelo, G.G. Raskin, P. Sutton, and M. van den Belt. 1997. The Value of the World's Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital. Nature 387:253-260.

Diamond, C., D. Davis, and D.C. Schmitz. 1991. Economic Impact Statement: The Addition of Melaleuca quinquenervia to the Florida Prohibited Aquatic Plant List. , edited by T.D. Center, R.F. Doren, R.L. Hofstetter, R.L. Myers and L.D. Whiteaker, pp. 87-110. NPS/NREVER/NRTR-91/06. Denver, CO: National Park Service.

Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI). 2005. Florida's Conservation Lands Interactive Map. Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL. (Accessed February 2006).

Money Generation Model 2 (MGM2). 2003. Methods. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. (Delinked 17 August 2012). [Accessed 17 August 2012].

Pearce, D.W. 1983. Cost-Benefit Analysis. New York, NY: St. Martins Press.

Prest, A.R., and R.Turvey. 1965. Cost-benefit Analysis: A Survey. The Economic Journal 75(300):683-735.

Sassone, P.G., and W.A.Schaffer. 1978. Cost-benefit Analysis. A Handbook. New York, NY: Academic Press, Inc.

United States Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS). 2002. 2002 Census of Agriculture. (Accessed February 2006).

United States Department of Commerce-Bureau of Economic Analysis. 2006. Gross Domestic Product: Implicit Price Deflator. (Accessed February 2006).

Whittington, D.. and W.N. Grubb. 1984. Economic Analysis in Regulatory Decisions: The Implications of Executive Order 12291. Science, Technology, and Human Values 9:63-71.


This research was sponsored in part by the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, under The Areawide Management Evaluation of Melaleuca (TAME Melaleuca). Valuable assistance was provided by Cressida Silvers and Paul Pratt (USDA-ARS); Francois Laroche, Amy Ferriter, and Sharon Wallace (South Florida Water Management District); Debbie Gillet (Southwest Florida Water Management District); Chris Wassil and Gary Lewis (Florida Division of Forestry); and Gail Baxley (Florida Department of Environmental Protection). Critical reviews of this paper were provided by Ferdinand Wirth, Sherry Larkin, and Thomas Stevens of UF/IFAS.


Table 1. 

Ecosystem values by land use.

Ecosystem Classification



Corresponding Land Use from Survey







Right-of-Way, Other




Park/Preserve, Forest








Mitigation Area/Constructed Wetlands








Crop, Fruit/Citrus Grove, Nursery

* Adjusted for Inflation using GDP Implicit Price Deflator.

Source: Costanza et al. (1997).

Table 2. 

Negative impacts of Melaleuca reported by surveyed land managers.


Park Manager Averages

Agricultural Manager Averages


Corresponding Land Use Classification





Reduced Agricultural Productivity




Pasture, Crop, Fruit, Nursery

Lowered Market Value




Pasture, Crop, Fruit, Nursery

Reduced Ecological Function




All Land Classifications

Diminished Recreational Use





Table 3. 

Total benefits of Melaleuca control in 2003.




(million dollars)

Agricultural Productivity


Agricultural Land Market Value


Ecological Function


Recreational Value


Avoidance of Fire Damages






This is EDIS document FE673, a publication of the Food and Resource Economics Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Published November 2006. Reviewed January 2013. Please visit the EDIS website at


Katherine Carter-Finn, graduate student; Alan W. Hodges, Assocate In; Donna J. Lee, Associate Professor; and Michael T. Olexa, Professor; Food and Resource Economics Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.