The "Bad Guys" Invading Florida's Native Species
Non-native Invasive Species in Florida:
Some of the most harmful plants and animals that reside in the state of Florida are non-native invasive species. They are usually introduced in the environment accidentally or through people traveling to other places and bringing them back. Most of these non-native species do not actually end up having a detrimental effect on the environment as they usually cannot strive or even survive in their new environment.
This phenomenon is expressed by the ten percent rule, which is a general guideline that specifies that only 10% of these non-native species survive in their new environment, and o
f that number, only 10% of that population will become actively invasive within the ecosystem they were introduced to (Invasive Non-Native Species). This general rule showcases how difficult it is for these non-native species to become harmful invasive species, but also emphasizes that the population of non-native species that become invasive are extremely damaging to the surrounding ecosystem. Most of the time, this damage is quantified in monetary terms so that we can fully understand the detrimental effects, but can also be quantified into terms of damage to native species and the surrounding ecosystem. Invasive species have caused North
America around 26 billion dollars annually since 2010, which is a huge economical impact (Economic and Social Impacts).
Some examples of harmful non-native invasive species in Florida:
One good example of this is the Burmese Python, known to most as a popular pet species, and was first recorded in the Everglades in 1979. Since then it has become an ever growing issue in Florida, as it is one of three breeding populations of constrictor snakes in the state. The burmese python also has no natural predators, as it actively competes with native predators in Florida and feeds on organisms like birds, mammals, and even some reptiles (Burmese Python). Making this species extremely harmful in the Everglades area because of their ongoing threat towards native predators in the Everglades area as well as depleting native populations in the ecosystem.
Another non-native invasive species in Florida is the Cane Toad, which was introduced into Florida in the 1930s. These species cause damage to the surrounding
animals and people because of the toxicity of their skin. This has to do with their skin-gland secretion, also called bufotoxin, which can kill or sicken any animal that attempts to bite the toad. Their eggs also contain the bufotoxin that has the same effect as their skin glands do (Cane toad). Making the cane toad a serious threat to any domesticated animals like dogs and cats that do not know better, and could potentially die from messing with a cane toad or its eggs. This might be an effective defense for the toad, but it causes an issue with coming up with natural methods to lessen their population in Florida, while reducing the number of incidents that occur with these non-native invasive species. Currently the most effective method seems to be to have Florida residents take care of any spotted Cane Toads on their own property and dispose of them.
An example of a non-native invasive plant species is the Japanese Climbing Fern, which was first introduced in the 1930s as a decorative plant. Known for its climbing ability, this non-native species grows super quickly and smothers native plants by preventing them from absorbing any sunlight. This in turn, also affects the fire risk of the area as the vine is highly flammable and causes more than just floor litter to burn during a forest fire. This species also creates a kind of mat over the ground that does not allow for any kind of seed germination in that matting area, which can grow up to ten feet (Japanese climbing fern). This non-native invasive species effectively harms the native vegetation and trees in Florida, causing native populations to drop and some to die off in certain areas.
What we can learn from this:
Take the time to learn about the various non-native invasive species found here in Florida. When considering planting some ornamental vegetation on your property, consider what species you are purchasing and the potential effect it can have on the surrounding environment. Choosing native plant species can help avoid any issues with invasive plant species, which can be easily bought in stores. It can also almost guarantee that your plants will do well, as they are native to the area and thrive in Florida’s climate conditions. When it comes to coming into contact with an invasive species in Florida, the best we can do is follow the Florida Fish and Wildlife instructions on how to get rid of the invasive animal or plant effectively and as naturally as we can manage.
How you can get involved:
Start off by learning about how to identify non-native animals and plants so you can tell them apart from native Florida species. The Everglades CISMA actually offers many different identification tools on our Publications & Tools page, in the linktree in our bio. You can then download the “IveGot1'' app for iPhone or Android so that you can identify and report
invasive species wherever you go on the go. Or you can also report invasive species by calling 1-888-IVE-GOT1 or online at www.IveGot1.org. These reports consist of three different elements: a clear photograph of the non-native invasive species, the date, and the location of the sighting. All of which aid in research about the distribution and help manage these non-native species in Florida.
Burmese Python. National Invasive Species Information Center. (n.d.-a). https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/terrestrial/vertebrates/burmese-python
Cane toad. Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. (n.d.). https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/amphibians/cane-toad/#:~:text=The%20cane%20toad%20(also%20known,to%20bite%20or%20consume%20them.
Economic and Social Impacts. National Invasive Species Information Center. (n.d.-b). https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/subject/economic-and-social-impacts
Japanese climbing fern. National Invasive Species Information Center. (n.d.-c). https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/terrestrial/plants/japanese-climbing-fern