Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blue Team: Reagan Fricke

Driving down the highway I-4 in my beautiful home town of Winter Springs I have noticed how many plants there truly are covering the towering tree tops. Little did I know, certain types of climbing ferns are invasive plants causing harm to the environment.

Most people are not aware that invasive plants are harming our natural wildlife and limiting many creatures ability to live. Researchers, such as the University of Florida’s assistant professor of wildlife and ecology Dr. Steve Johnson, 45, are trying to find ways to exterminate these pesky species.

“Once something gets here it’s very hard to eradicate the animal or plant,” he said. Johnson also mentioned that people would buy pets when they are small but let them loose into Florida’s natural habitats once they grow.

Due to the hot and humid climate of Florida, many species such as the Cuban tree frogs and the cane toad prefer living in these conditions. These creatures came from other countries and are in fact invasive and cause many problems to today’s ecosystems. Specifically the Cuban tree frogs cause harm to the environment as well as people because of their noxious skin secretions. When people come in contact with these tree frogs a toxin is released onto the handler’s hand. This is released through the skin secretions. This particular tree frog is four times larger than the ones back in Winter Springs. The Cuban tree frog is just one of the many invasive animals that has been released into Florida’s natural habitat.

There are many ways that researchers are attempting to control these foreign species. Dr. Jim Cuda, 59, assistant professor of entomolgy and nematology believes “the use of live natural enemies primarily insects, mites, and in some cases fish can be used as a tool.” These unwanted invasive species came here without the biotic factors that keep them in check, which is why they are taking over certain habitats. A plant such as melaleuca is an invasive woody plant that originated from Australia, New Guinea, and the Soloman Islands but came to Florida in the late 19th century. This plant currently has infected more than 200,000 of wetland ecosystems in this region.

On the hot summer nights spent by the lake, the mosquitoes are uncontrollable. This is another major problem in Florida: the mosquito population. Biological control is being used to manage the number of these insects. Researchers are trying to find the origin of the mosquitoes and exterminate them before they make it to the adult stage. If the researchers don’t catch the place that the mosquitoes are deriving from, other methods will be used to destroy them such as trucks that spray a substance to kill these pesky flies.

Many researchers believe that the only true way to make a significant difference in the invasive species is to inform the public about what is going on. Once the public understands the real problem at hand and begins an act to fix this, a necessary change will come. Hopefully one day I will be able to drive down highway I-4 again without climbing fern covering the trees.

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