Saturday, June 19, 2010

Harvester provides invasive solution

By Katherine Fontanez

Looking at the image of what seemed to be in the middle of a tractor and boat big and wide with more metal than a junk yard. It seemed to move quite like a duck when it swims in the waters the two feet paddling in the back to move forward and backwards, until being informed it was a mechanical harvester. Harvesting is one of the several techniques used at the University of Florida’s own Lake Alice.

“Every lake is different and the economic and environmental concerns depend on the lake and of the method being used.” said Bill Haler, ecologist of University of Florida.

It is not like any other farming such as handpicking and plowing. This is not mass produced it is handmade and has the cost of up to 45,000 dollars. The harvester is used to remove invasive plant species such as Hydrilla. But that is not the only machine used in this process. There is also the conveyor belt and the truck that takes the plants to the dump.

Many lakes suffer from many non-native plant species. Hydrilla first came to be noticed in the late 1950’s and has become one of the most plants to be found invading lake waters. The Hydrilla grows from one to two inches every day. Because of this many small fish species have been unable to produce due to getting caught in machinery.

Chemical control is also a way of trying to reduce the spread of this invasive species. This method is mostly done lake waters. All specimens must be labeled to be approved and also in order to use them in public and portable water. There are 12 active ingredients that are registered and in use. The process is to spray the chemical by airboat or by areal and let them die. It is not all too easy applicators have to be certified and must wear suits to protect themselves.

Many non-native plant species can enter new grounds every day such as animals do in the pet industries.

Steve Johnson, assistant professor has studied these many non-native animal species. There are 50 non-native reptile species in the state of Florida. Many wild reptiles and species have been raised by people and then let out into parks or public areas. This creates the unstable balance of the environment. Letting go of these animals in public areas can cause a fine or years in jail.

“Biochemical is a bad idea,” Johnson said.

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