Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Promoting native plants in Florida

Patricia Behnke of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission writes in A healthy ecosystem requires a delicate balancing act among all species. Florida’s sometimes fragile ecosystems are poised on a balance beam as a growing population and changing climate challenge wildlife managers. Florida’s environment complicates the issues, because it is a welcoming host to invasive plant species. It also covers two climate zones – subtropical and temperate, allowing some invasive species to invade other regions with impunity.

…“Highly disturbed landscapes are more prone to invasion by nonnative plant species,” said Don Schmitz with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Invasive Plant Management Section. “Just look at the Everglades – a highly disturbed ecosystem. Disturbance has left it more prone to invasives, such as the Brazilian pepper plant.”

The growth of the nonnative Brazilian pepper has damaged mangroves, and as predicted sea-level changes occur, the mangroves will feel some of the first effects. The invasion of Brazilian pepper creates a battlefield in the mangrove communities. And quite a community it is – mangroves support all manner of flora and fauna in the Everglades and other brackish estuaries along the coast. Without mangroves, a variety of wildlife also would vanish, including invertebrates, fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Florida softshell turtles and alligators; bobcats and manatees; cattle egrets and brown pelicans; snook and cobia – all of these species and many more call the mangroves home and depend upon their foliage, roots and shelter for sustenance.

…It is true that environmental and wildlife managers must do their part on a large scale, but as individuals, we can do our part to lessen their load. “Folks can begin by not planting nonnative plants and replace invasive and nonnatives already in the yard with native species,” Schmitz said. “We have to start somewhere, and this is one instance where it really can begin in our own backyard.”…

The Everglades, shot by Hein Mück, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0, Attribution ShareAlike 2.5, Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 and Attribution ShareAlike 1.0 License

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