Invasive Species in the Everglades (Part 2)
Nonnative species, also called ‘invasive species’, in the Everglades, severely threaten the health of Florida’s native communities. In part 1 of Invasive Species of the Everglades (Part 1) we learned about what invasive species are and how they affect the Everglades by preying on native species, effecting future animal populations, carrying diseases, and assisting in the spread of wildfire.
With over 1.5 million acres, the Everglades has no way of hiding from some forms of these threats, and many of them have found their way into the park.
What Are Examples of Nonnative, Invasive Species in the Everglades?
Burmese Python: The Burmese Python is one of the most talked about invasive species in South Florida. Originally from India, China, and the East Indies, they are very popular in pet trade. Owners often release pythons into the wild once they become too large. They are one of the largest snakes in the world, typically ranging between 6 to 10 feet. Burmese pythons are tan in color, with dark spots and a pyramid shaped head. They are capable of climbing trees, but are often found in or near water, preying on the native species. They also pose a threat to human safety, as well as pet cats and dogs.
Australian Pine: The Australian Pine has invaded thousands of acres of South Florida. The Australian Pine is a tree native to Australia and Malaysia. It is a tall tree with soft needles, and it produces small oval cones. It grows fast and thick; up to 100 feet at a time, providing plenty of shade to the area it inhabits. The chemicals released from the tree inhibit the growth of natural plants in the surrounding area, which are used to keep the ecosystem healthy. Because it grows rapidly, it changes the light, temperature, and soil by displacing the natural habitat. The Australian Pine has shallow roots, which makes it easy to collapse in storms, further damaging its surroundings. The roots contribute to erosion, which disrupt the nesting tendencies of sea turtles and alligators.
Lionfish: Lionfish are from the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea, but their population in South Florida has increased drastically since the mid-2000s. These fish are typically between 12-15 inches in length, but grow larger in nonindigenous areas. Lionfish have venomous spines that they insert into the body of a predator. They are predatory of reef fish, they eat native fish, and they reduce populations on the habitat and health of their surrounding environment. Lionfish are known to prey on over 70 species of marine life, and they compete with native fish such as grouper and snapper for food. Locals and visitors are encouraged to catch lionfish upon sight to remove them from the Everglades and its surrounding areas.
Other nonnative and invasive species found in the Everglades include the Cuban Tree Frog, Green Iguanas, Black Spiny Tail Iguanas, the Melaleuca Tree, the Mayaheros fish, and the Asian Swamp eel. The expert captains at Everglades Holiday Park will take your group on an airboat tour through the Everglades’ wetlands, pointing out the abundant life both coexisting and competing to thrive in the Everglades. Call today to book your tour and learn more about the River of Grass!