Invasive species are non-native or exotic species in an area that can harm the economy, the environment and your health. They have become the No. 1 threat to biodiversity on protected lands.
That’s troubling because Northwest Florida is home to many unique habitats, including upland, wetland and marine. These house a variety of plants and animals, and make this area one of the country’s top six biodiversity hotspots.
Threats can come from plants and animals. In Florida, there are more than 500 non-native fish and wildlife species. More than 1,180 non-native plant species have been documented.
Exotic species can outlast many natives, causing habitats to degrade and animals to leave. They can introduce diseases that can destroy economically important species.
Addressing the problem
Just becoming aware of these issues can help to control them.
Cleaning and draining your boat, gear and trailer between water bodies can stop the spread of species hitchhiking on your equipment. The smallest fragment can transport a potential infestation to another water body.
If you no longer want your pet, do not release it into the wild. Doing so could cause harm to your pet and the natural habitat.
Visit http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/nat/ to see the "Invasive Species of the Day" series, featured during National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
Contact your UF/IFAS extension office, 689-5850, for more on local invasive species.