Impacts of invasive species on our state are a major concern. However, we can all do our part in combating these threats. Identifying and reporting are key.
Invasive species not only cause environmental harm, but can cause economic and human health issues. Invasive species disrupt natural processes, thus are a significant threat to biodiversity. There are estimates as high as $179 million in annual loss to Florida’s agriculture due to invasive pests (www.defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/florida.pdf).
There are many invasive plants, animals and insects that have now called Florida home. There are many scenarios of how invasive species have emerged in the state. Some were brought here as a solution to land use issues, like erosion. Some were merely brought here for aesthetics. All are a threat to native species. Some infamous examples of these are cogongrass, torpedograss wild taro, hydrilla, wild hogs, red lionfish and Asian tiger shrimp.
Unfortunately, the eradication of invasive species, in most cases, is very difficult and expensive. Therefore, many state and federal management plans focus on control instead of eradication. There are ways to control invasive species, even on a citizen level and we need your help to do so. An easy control method for an invasive threat, is to be very careful in transferring plants, especially exotics, from out of state. Even though you may think the plant is harmless and containable, the plant maybe harboring weeds and insects that cause disease.
You can take action in combating invasive species, by engaging. The state has a network known as the Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA) under the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). This network is a collaboration between public and private organizations to actively control invasive species in their area. I also urge you to check out EDDMaps (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), which is a web-based mapping system dedicated for reporting invasive species (https://www.eddmaps.org/).
For more information regarding invasive species, explore these online resources:
Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP) http://floridainvasives.org/
UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/
Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council http://www.fleppc.org/
With your help, we can control these threats to our environment. For help identifying species, please contact the Gulf County Extension office at 639-3200.