For over ten years now I have lived in Weston, a newly developed city that was once the Everglades and is now surrounded by it. My backyard is covered in lush tropical plants and is full of exotic animals, ranging from alligators and iguanas to parakeets. Although extremely beautiful, most of the organisms and plants that live around me are invasive species.
Invasive species are not native and can cause harm to the environment and the economy. They are usually introduced to ecosystems by accident, for example the release of an unwanted pet. At first the species are small and don’t do too much damage, but unfortunately they reproduce and end up covering acres and severely affecting the areas environment.
These species must be controlled and hopefully diminished before it gets too out of hand, which unfortunately has already happened in some areas. As cruel as it sounds to kill animals and plants, researchers have found the most eco-friendly ways to do so.
In the case of invasive animals and insects, biologists have limited options. The most common approach is to bring in another species from the invasive species’ natural environment to control them. Another key to protecting our environment, said wildlife biologist Steve Johnson, is to stop bringing in these foreign species. Before purchasing a pet, make sure to do research. If you do end up with an animal that you cannot handle, make sure to turn it in to officials. Do not set it free!
Another major concern in saving native environments is the control of invasive plants. Invasive plants must be maintained. Dr. Mike Netherland, of the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, said it is better to routinely manage small areas of plants in a lake, then a yearly herbicide spraying of the whole lake. Because of Florida’s subtropical environment, invasive plants grow much quicker here than in their natural environment. This means that the plants must constantly be managed. There are two ways to do so.
A common way to manage invasive plants in large areas is with herbicides. The problem with herbicides is that they have very specific rules and regulations. “If someone carelessly uses too much, it could severely affect the ecosystem,” said Netherland.
Another way to maintain the invasive plants is with mechanical harvesters. Mechanical harvesters are large machines that glide over the water, cutting around 5ft. deep and 5ft. around of plants as they do so. This method is much more eco-friendly, but unfortunately cannot cover as much area as herbicides do. “The use of the lake highly effects how it is handled,” said Dr. William T. Haller of the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.
All of these methods of maintaining invasive species are eco-friendly if balanced and done in the right manner. The sad thing is that all of this stress and hard work could be avoided if foreign species weren’t brought into our environment. We should work hard to keep out any new invasive species and continue to maintain the ones that currently occupy our ecosystems. With hard work and dedication, soon we should have a balanced and almost completely native environment.