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Invasive species costing the state of Florida millions of dollars

Invasive Species
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 04:24:28-04

GAINESVILLE, Fla — Florida has so many plants and animals, but many of what you see are nonnative to the state. This includes certain palm tree species or invasive species like the Burmese pythons in the Everglades.

And while a lot of nonnative plants and animals do little harm to the environment, many still do. In fact, the state’s agriculture loses an estimated $179 million per year due to invasive species.

According to a recent study by Auburn University, invasive species have conservatively cost the United States since 1960 a total of $1.22 trillion in damages and management costs.

Dr. Deah Lieurance at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences says the state is extremely vulnerable to biological invasions as our climate overlaps with the most biodiverse regions in the world. She adds that it has over 35 international ports of entry that receive over $80 million in cargo, as well as nearly 120 million tourists each year. This increases the frequency of accidental and intentional transport of nonnative species to the state.

“There are some examples of natural migrations but for the most part, we are the reason this stuff is happening,” Dr. Lieurance. “Biological invasions along with climate change are two of the main drivers of biodiversity loss in the world. And you put those two together and, in the future, they are going to make it even worse.”

Dr. Lieurance adds that this risk assessment needs to be made when a nonnative species is brought into the state or before it takes root to make sure the proper management is done to prevent it from becoming invasive.

“If you can catch those species earlier, in that invasion process, ideally before they are introduced, through something like a risk assessment,” said Dr. Lieurance. “Then we are saving a lot of time, money, and protecting our…Florida has a lot of valuable natural areas.”

She adds that we can help stop the spread of invasive species by taking steps like making well-informed choices when selecting plants and pets, cleaning your boots and boats before moving to a new recreation area, do not pack a pest when traveling, and dispose of garden waster responsibly, and making sure you do not release bait, aquarium fish, and exotic pets into the wild.