Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blue Team: Isabella Ruggeri

With 4,000 species of plants occupying Florida, has it ever been made known to the citizens of the Sunshine State that more than 25 percent of species are non-native or exotic plants? This means that more than 1,000 plants are invasive to Florida. The word “invasive” is not to be taken lightly. With every addition of an invasive species to the environment, there is a guaranteed harmful effect that will occur. According to Executive Order 13112, an invasive species is “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” This can be as simple as letting a pet turtle loose in your backyard, or as complex as collecting a large amount of a type of plant and unleashing it into a foreign environment. The bottom line is that invasive plant species are extremely dangerous to the environment and if no action is taken soon to address this problem and to begin to control the species from spreading uncontrollably, the natural environment will eventually be taken over and sadly, destroyed.

Invasive plants are in Florida and many of these species were imported from other countries. The importers thought the plants would adapt to the new habitat quickly, without knowing the potential consequences of this decision. These plants would be planted or sold and released into the environment to spread and contaminate the land. According to “Teaching Points”, once the plants are accustomed to their new habitat they will begin to spread in a variety of ways. The seeds can be spread by wind, water, and animals that come into contact with the plant, “vegetative propagules” can fall off of the plant and form a new plant in a different place, and the plant can be broken up by a boat propeller and regrow separately.

Around the time that the citizens of Florida began to realize the harmful effects of invasive plant species, it was also realized that the rapid progression of the plants spreading and growth was going to make eliminating them a very difficult procedure. One way to hopefully control the invading species is the administering of herbicides, or chemicals, to infected places. There are 12 registered aquatic herbicides that can be used in the state of Florida. Dr. Michael D. Netherland, Courtesy Associate Professor of the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center explained, to be able to use these herbicides, a label is required that must state where the herbicide should be used, how much of the substance should be used, the minimum amount that can be applied to see an effect, and if there are any restrictions for using the herbicides (such as the herbicide cannot be used in a facility where grass carp are located). In order for the herbicide to be effective, reading the label is absolutely necessary. Dr. Netherland also says, “Without reading this label, people can mess up. This irresponsibility can be led to an overspray of the area or not even enough of a spray to be effective.” Another solution to invasive species is biological control, which by Dr. James P. Cuda’s definition, Associate Professor Biological Weed Control of the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department is, “the use of insects, fish, diseases and other agents to combat unwanted exotic weeds.” By knowing for sure that certain insects, fish, and diseases will eliminate problem weeds and plants, this helps fight the growth and spreading of invasive plants.

It is necessary that the citizens know the details and factors of invasive plant species, but without proper education and research nobody really knows exactly what they can do to help. Paying attention to the environment and not putting any foreign plant or animal into any lakes, canals or ponds is a start. By doing this, and by being open to listening to new solutions to control and eradicate the amount of invasive plants, we, the citizens of Florida can make our home a better place to live in.

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