Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blue Team: Erica Hernandez

Every single night at around 9 p.m. I walk into my back yard with a small ceramic container filled with coffee grinds, tree trimmings, vegetable peels and other natural waste items in hand. I empty the container into a larger black trash can with holes on the bottom, then I turn on my hoes and let some water run into the waste filled trash can, I then proceed to stir the mixture with a large branch : This is how I make organic mulch using my home made composter. This may seem like a trivial act, without much importance in the grand scheme of things, but if every Floridian used composters for their lawns instead of buying fertilizer not only would they save a great deal of money, our lakes and waterways would be significantly less polluted.

“Composting is not talked about enough!” Botanist Collette Jacono said during a 20 minute session at the University of Florida’s annual summer journalism visitation program. “The thing to keep in mind is that everything you pick up off the floor of your plot is something that your land produced, why would you deprive your land of the nutrients it produced?” she continued.

Our environment is constantly being put at risk, from the fertilizers we use, to the exotic pets we so willingly adopt. It’s crucial to take a step back and see the detrimental effects that our everyday actions are having on our lakes, rivers and aquatic areas in general.

Invasive animal and plants are widespread across Florida, and what invasive means is exotic to the area plants or animals that cause undesirable effects such on the areas environmental and economy. There are three routes of proposed solutions to the invasive animal and plant population: Herbicide, mechanical and biological.

Mechanically removing invasive plants is something that is done practically every day at Lake Alice, a lake on the University of Florida campus, and although it seems like a valid option for controlling the plants it has its downfalls.

“Mechanical harvesting is not cost effective, it’s hard to keep up with the fast paced growth of the plants and because the machines aren’t selective so animals do get hurt in the process,” Bill Haller, said.

Biologically removal of invasive plants and animals also does not have 100 percent desirable effects. Biologically removal is taking a non native animal and placing it in an environment where there are invasive plants or animals. There are specific insects for each specific species of plant and you can actually go down to your local DDIS (distance diagnostic information system) with an invasive plant or weed from your lawn and they will test it and match it with an insect which they will provide you with for practically no cost at all. This is a more natural alternative to using pesticides which are detrimental to our water systems.

Having witnessed the effects of invasive plants first hand on Lake Alice, I can say that the invasive plant and animal crisis needs to receive more attention and fast. Though there are various options for managing the invasive species not one seemed totally beneficial to the environment; Herbicides can hurt the animals, machines are non-selective so while they cut out weeds like hydrilla it will still cut out animals in the process and biologically trying to reduce invasive species introduces a whole new native species to the area and that just seems counterproductive, even if the new species isn’t “harmful.”

After learning all about the damage that invasive species can have on our limited aquatic areas, I urge all Floridians take action, start making our own mulch, learn about volunteering opportunities in these infested lake and river areas, don’t let this problem get any worse before you decide to get involved.

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