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Invasive
species have had a detrimental impact on the marine and inland environment in
Florida for the past decades. Although many precautions have been taken, the
impact that the invasive plants species have caused is inevitable. This
researcher will investigate to what extent has invasive aquatic and plant
species impacted the marine and inland Everglades environment in Florida. To
delve into this investigation, this researcher will make use of both primary
and secondary sources, such as essays, articles, books, and websites. By using
background information and common sense knowledge, this researcher will
formulate to answer to the degree outcomes as a result of invasive aquatic
plants.

 

Background knowledge is necessary in order to completely understand to
reasoning of this topic. A theme that will be very much discussed throughout
this research paper is invasive species. Invasive species is a term used to
describe a plant or animal that is not native to a specific location, and that
has a tendency to spread, which causes damage to an environment. In this
research, there have been many incidents of an invasive plant species, both
aquatic and inland. These species compete with native species and threaten their
diversity and abundance. Invasive
species are known as one of the most dangerous threats to Florida’s biodiversity
and create enormous threats to our oceans, forestry, biodiversity, and wildlife.
With its warm climate, multitude of habitats and lively cities, many people
consider Florida to be a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, invasive species
from around the world have also found Florida as a perfect paradise. Many citizens of Florida tend to overlook the ongoing dilemma of these
plants and animals creating negative effects on the wildlife. These invasive
species find their way to new areas outside of their native habitats in two
ways; self-introduction on their own, or with human support that can either be
deliberate or accidental. Many of them are able to live in a variety of
conditons and habitats, which gives them an advantage when they start over
populating and invading. Invasive species in
Florida currently make up more than 26% of the population and a full one third
of the plant life population.

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Where did these species come
from

Invasive species can enter a
new environment through many routes, some species can be transported to places
all around the world, but with unpredictable consequences. A large number of
different invasive species have been introduced incidentally through ships and
boats re-entering the area.  Some species, like the zebra
mussles would stick to the bottoms of boats and be trasnported accidently. Some
invasive species were actually brought in as unsuccessful attempts to control
other invasive species. This has been the case with Burmese pythons which are
an invasive species in the Florida Everglades. These were once a popular
pet because they have a unique skin and have an easy-going behavior. However,
these snakes can grow up to be 6ft in their first year of life. A fully grown
Burmese python can grow up to 13 feet and requires a specially-made cage and a
large amount of food. This responsibility eventually becomes too troublesome
for many owners, who then release them into the wild without thinking of the
consequnces that come with It. As a result, a large population of these snakes
now occupies South Florida, especially the Everglades and take up resources of
native speices.

With the overpopulation of
the snake, it can affect the food chain as well as consume animals that native
species usually eat.

 

Cases of plant
invasions

The main issue lying with these invasive
species is the affect they are having on the native flora and fauna of the
environment. Many people only focus on the cases of animal species, but do not
realize that plant species, both aquatic and inland are having a detrimental
impact on the Florida Everglades. The first invader on my list is the Brazilian
pepper also known as the Florida Holly, which originates from Brazil, Paraguay,
and Argentina. It is a bushy, spreading tree with tiny flowers and bright red
berries (resembling holly berries). This pesky plant was imported as an
ornamental in the 1840’s; it has invaded farmlands, hardwood hammocks, roadsides,
and most importantly the mangrove forests of the Everglades. It out competes
native vegetation, which causes a loss of biodiversity. The Brazilian Pepper is
the most widespread of Florida’s nonnative invasive plant species occupying
more than 700,000 acres. It is fire resistant and salt- tolerant, it is to be
considered on of the most invasive plants in Florida.    

Accompanying
this pest is called the Australian pine, a tall, wispy pine like tree that
originates from Australia, Malaysia, and southern Asia. It was introduced to
Florida in the late 1800s and was planted mainly for ditch and canal
stabilization. The ecological threat that it imposes is that the fallen leaves
and fruits can create a thick blanket covering the ground, which shadows out
native plants. With is, it displaces native dunes and beach vegetation
including mangroves. Once the tree is established in an area it starts to alter
the light, temperature, and soil chemistry of beach habitats. As you can see
from these two cases, humans purposely brought these non-native species and
gave them the condition to thrive and take over. Another invasive plant that
has taken over the Everglades Is the Melaleuca, also known to many as the
paperbark or punk tree. It is a subtropical tree is in the eucalyptus family
and is native to Australia, New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. This tree was
introduced to south Florida in the early 1900s, which was intended for
landscaping and for “swamp drying”. The Melaleuca is a very aggressive invasive
species, which is destroying the Everglades not only because it’s converting
the saw grass marshes, wet prairies, and aquatic sloughs into impenetrable
thickets, but also they can produce more than a million seeds per year and
overpopulate.

The Old
World Climbing Fern, native to Australia, Africa, and tropical Asia, this pesky
vine has two types of leaves; one has a simple structure and the other is a
more complex outline with spores that are spread by the wind. Climbing ferns
invade multiple Florida habitats from cypress swamps to pine forests. They
create a thick blanket of vines that cover all that crosses its path; they can
change the water flow through streams and wetlands. This causes an underlying
problem that will eventually affect the wildlife of the environment being
invaded. They were introduced to Florida in the 1960s as an ornamental
landscape plant. As you can see, the majority of these invasive species were
brought to Florida decades ago, without knowledge of the consequences they
would cause. The Old World Climbing Fern can be managed by fire, but that
doesn’t mean they’re eliminated for sure. The best option for this invader
would be a chemical application of an Herbicide.

The Leather
leaf Mahonia also known as the Leather leaf Holly, originates from China,
Japan, and Taiwan. It is an evergreen clonal shrub brought to Florida as an
ornamental plant. It can grow in many different conditions and over powers all
other native species trying to survive. The best option to control this pest
would be to cut their stems and paint them with a systemic herbicide. Many of
these species look native to our environment, but in reality they’re just alien
species where they do not belong. The Seaside Mahoe, known for its
multi-trunked trees, originates from the Tropical seashores of Africa and
India. This species invades shoreline habitats; covers native plants with its
broad leaves and can easily out compete native vegetation. Its seeds float in
seawater and can be carried all around by currents and colonize onto distant
shores. The best option to control this species is to cut down the tree and
apply herbicide.

 

 

 

             Efforts made to reduce
invasive species

 

Many strategies have
been developed to stop the damage caused by invasive species and to prevention
future invasions. An important key factor is educating people about the dangers
of transporting non-native wildlife to new areas. Many laws and regulations
have also been made to avoid the future spread of new invasive species. Laws
have also been passed to restrict the exotic pet trade, such as banning the
import of Burmese pythons into the United States.

Promoting the hunting
of invasive species is another used technique, although it has not had the
success in which people expected. A python hunt in Florida in 2013 provided
cash awards to people who hunted and killed pythons, 68 of these invasives were
caught and killed (M.E. Hunter, 2013). Pythons are extremely sneaky and hard to
get hold of, which makes them a difficult target to find and exterminate.

As with many
environmental problems, continued research will bring upon insight into
effective control measures. For example, research studies have been conducted
to determine how effective traps are in catching pythons. Predicting how the
geographic range of an invasive species will increase is important for
preparing new areas that may be invaded by the pest. While many invasive
species may not ever by completely eradicated, increased awareness and research
offer different methods of preventing their spread and controlling the economic
and environmental damage they can cause.

 

The cost to control invasive species and the
damages they cause upon property and natural resources in the U.S. is estimated
at $137 billion per year.

Florida has spent over $300 million to
control a just one invasive species, the citrus canker. The citrus canker is a
bacterium originated from Southeastern Asia, first introduced in the US in the
1920s and 30s for forage and soil stabilization. The bacteria has taken over 11
counties in Florida with extensive damage; highly contagious disease that
causes citrus trees to drop their leaves and fruit; 2.9 million trees have been
destroyed. From 1999 to 2000, nine Florida agencies spent roughly $91 million
dollars on prevention, monitoring, control, and restoration efforts. The annual
cost of invasive plants, animals and diseases in losses to Florida’s
agriculture is estimated at $179 million.

 

Biological efforts are being made to control
and manage some of these invaders like bringing in other species to regulate
them. In the case of the Melaleuca, Several species of Australian snout beetles
are being introduced to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these beetles are
specific to the Melaleuca and they feed on the shoots of the tree to stop the
growth of the plant. The possible problems with this type of solution, ties
back to the reason we have the problem in the first place. Many times non-native
plants and animals have been introduced to help or aid a situation of an
existing invasive species, then the new species overpopulates and creates the
problem that was trying to be solved in the beginning. Another big issue that
doesn’t help to reduction of these invasive species is that people are not
educated on the problem. Many people either don’t care about the situation, or
do not know that a species is invasive and is causing great harm right in their
own backyards. The best solution for trying to reduce this very important issue
is to raise awareness on it. The people of Florida and all around the world
need to have more care for these ecological issues that can affect them in more
ways than they know.

 

Harm
caused by these invaders

 Invasive, non- native organisms are one the
biggest threats to natural ecosystem of the U.S. and are destroying America’s
natural history and identity. These alien plants are disrupting the balance of
natural ecosystems, displacing native plants and animal species, even making
the endangered and in worst cases extinct. 
They are diminishing the Everglades biodiversity and degrading its
natural resources. The populations of multiple native plants to the Everglades
have been greatly reduced as a result of human encroachment, which has
destroyed many millions of acres of natural habitat. In the United States
alone, about 200 native plant species have become extinct since the 1800s and
about 5,000 species are considered to be at risk. Invasions of nonnative plants
are the second greatest threat to native species after direct habitat
destruction. With the affect of invasive species on native plants, our
Everglades will eventually be nothing but deserted swamp. These intense
invaders are reducing the amount of light, amount of water, nutrients, and
space available for native species. Some exotic species have the capacity to
hybridize with different native plant relatives, which result in unnatural
changes to a plants genetic makeup. The things occurring in nature due to these
exotic plants are not natural and can have a greater affect; some exotics
contain toxins that can be lethal to certain animals. Exotic organisms have
been referred to as biological pollution. According to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, about 42% of the nations endangered and threated species have
declined as the result of encroaching exotic plants. These invasive species can
even make alterations to the frequency and intensity of natural fires. The
Everglades native fauna like insects, mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds depend
on native plants for food and shelter. Many of the species have a varied diet,
but some are very specialized and may only feed on one single plant species.
Approximately 4,000 species of exotic plants and 500 exotic animals have been
discovered in the United States. Over 1,000 of these exotic plant species have
been discovered as a threat to our native flora and fauna because of their
intense and aggressive, invasive characteristics.

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