Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cold spell decreased invasive numbers

By Ashley Spooner

Although some Floridians complained about the unusually cold temperatures Florida experienced last winter, these lower degrees also had a major benefit to the state as a whole. It began to decrease the population of invasive species.

“Due to the extended cold period in Florida this past winter, nearly 80 percent of the green iguanas and pythons found in the Everglades were discovered dead,” said Steve Johnson, assistant professor of wildlife geology.

South Florida is inhabited by nearly 50 different types of invasive vertebrate species alone, some coming from South America and Cuba. But due to the unexpected climate drop, many invasive species have been terminated.

Some invasive species are reptiles, which means that they are exothermic or more commonly called, cold-blooded. Originating in South America, they are well adapted to the warmer weather, but not the strange cold front that came through Florida last winter. This caused many invasive reptiles to die.

This comes at a direct benefit for Florida, its plants and animals, and its habitat.

“An invasive species is a species that is not native to the area… and is causing environmental harm to natives... most can be found in South Florida,” said Johnson. Many local species have been killed off due to the fact that these invasive species have come over with no natural predators against them.

As good as this may sound for Florida, only time will tell if the invasive species will stay away for long. Although the cold weather may have stopped the spread of the species for now, it may only be temporary. It is predicted that eventually most of the invasive species will reproduce and repopulate.

The way invasive species are brought over to Florida is primarily through the pet-trade industry. Many people will purchase small iguanas, snakes, tortoises, or frogs from local pet shops unaware of the potential size or care that these animals will eventually need.

Once a new owner discovers the true effort they will have to put in to owning this pet, many people become overwhelmed and seeks a nice spot to leave it, thinking that it is in the owner and animal’s best interest.

But, these invasive species will grow up and push out local species. Dumping the animal is very discouraged, and against state laws and ethics.

“Become knowledgeable about what animals to buy, and which ones to avoid,” said Johnson.

No matter which type of invasive species is released into the environment, “They all cause problems in different ways,” said Johnson.

The three main ways of controlling invasive species in Florida is through manual, physical, and biological control. But thanks to the cold fronts that came through last winter, Florida will not need to worry about some invasive species coming back for a little while longer.

But once again, as Johnson said, “Only time will tell,”.

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