From hard-to-ignore pythons and feral hogs to hard-to-fathom Old World climbing fern fronds 125 feet long, non-native, invasive plants and animals are bad news. They negatively impact Florida’s economy—management of Florida’s invasive plants alone costs an estimated $100 million annually; pose health risks to its residents; and threaten almost half of its endangered species with extinction.
Floridians and others have brought some invasive species to the state for landscaping, aquaculture, hunting, aquariums and as pets. Some have been released intentionally; others accidentally. Still other invasive species are transported as unknown stowaways such things as boats, boots and firewood.
In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, here are some top tips from The Nature Conservancy for fighting damaging invaders and stemming their spread:
· Don’t harbor backyard invaders. Heavenly bamboo and Hawaiian half-flower (beach naupaka) may sound nice, but plants like these can overrun, crowd out and strangle life from native Florida plants. Go to www.FLEPPC.org to learn more about invasive plants in your area of Florida.
· Don’t let it loose! Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. Go to http://stjohns.ifas.ufl.edu/sea/DontRelease.html for more. Know the law, too. Acquiring certain invasive reptiles like Burmese or African rock pythons as pets is prohibited in Florida.
· Wash your boats — and boots! Clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to avoid moving invasive stowaways. Clean your boots before you hike to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens. Learn how to protect our waterways at www.protectyourwaters.net.
· Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling and don’t move firewood. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects and animals can carry potentially devastating forest pests or become invasive themselves, and firewood can harbor forest pests. Find out more about your powers to protect at http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/.
· Get involved! Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area or with your local Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) to help remove invasive species. Go to www.FloridaInvasives.org to get started!
For more information, visit nature.org/floridainvasives.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.