February 21-27 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week
The Nature Conservancy invites Floridians to join events aimed at controlling invasive plants and animals.
MAITLAND, FL | February 12, 2016
Invasive species are a serious threat to Florida’s natural balance. Thousands of non-native plants and animals have been introduced in Florida, some bringing negative impacts that create ongoing challenges to Florida’s environment. National Invasive Species Awareness week (February 21 through 27) provides additional focus on the issue as well as efforts to combat the invaders through scores of events throughout the state where people can participate in hands-on projects or educational programs.
“Every day, people from the Panhandle to the Keys are working to control non-native invasive species that threaten our native plants and wildlife,” said Kristina Serbesoff-King, associate director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “Yet many others don’t know the challenges posed by invasive plants and animals. The week of February 21 is a week of events to raise awareness about invasive species and how to control them.”
Invasive species are often one of the main factors that put imperiled species at risk. Invasive plants can increase the severity of wildfires, impede water flow, make areas inaccessible to wildlife and can harm crops. Invasive plants know no boundaries and don’t respect fence lines, so dealing with them effectively requires a landscape approach with public and private partners. Invasive plants like Old World climbing fern and cogon grass create hazards on land; hydrilla and other invasive aquatic plants clog our waterways. Invasive animals such as tegu lizards are voracious omnivores, and in our oceans non-native lionfish reduce coral reef health by consuming the fish that are important in keeping algae in check.
The Nature Conservancy in Florida battles invasive species on its own preserves, as well as on a larger scale through programs and partnerships. The Conservancy works closely with the network of 17 Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) in Florida. These are voluntary public-private partnerships working on a regional basis to work more effectively and efficiently together. In Florida, CISMAs hold workshops, workdays, meetings and other events to focus on National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
The Nature Conservancy offers these tips:
- Don’t harbor backyard invaders. Heavenly bamboo and Mexican petunia may sound nice, but plants like these can overrun, crowd out and strangle life from native Florida plants.
- Don’t let it loose! Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild.
- Don’t buy it! Acquiring invasive reptiles like Burmese or African rock pythons as pets is prohibited in Florida.
- Wash your boats — and boots! Clean your boat thoroughly to remove invasive stowaways. Clean your boots before you hike to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds.
- 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.
- 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.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.