What are invasive exotic species?
An invasive exotic species is a plant or animal which has established itself in a location other than its native range and is causing harm to the environment, economy, and/or human health. People have been introducing species around the world since they were able to travel. Around the early 1500’s, Europeans brought plants and animals to new settlements in North America and elsewhere. Many introduced species are harmless and are used for food or landscaping, however there are a number of species that have no natural growth controls and threaten native Florida habitats.
|Why are invasive exotic species a problem?
Invasive exotics are fierce competitors and compete with native plants and animals for food and living space. More than 50% of Florida’s native listed plants are threatened by invasive exotic species through direct destruction or crowding. Invasive exotics know no boundaries and will grow beyond a homeowner's yard and into neighboring natural areas. Florida is one of the states with the highest numbers of invasive exotic plants. One of the reasons is because 70% of all plant shipments that come into the United States come through Florida’s ports. Approximately 130 invasive exotic plant species currently pose a threat to Florida’s natural areas.
|What can you do to prevent the spread of invasive exotic species?
Landscaping with native plants is a good start. Native plants need less water and care than exotic ornamentals and are better for native wildlife that live within the city such as birds and butterflies. Also, do not release exotic pets into natural areas. Many exotic pets like tropical fish, snakes, lizards, and frogs can live very well in north Florida, but they also compete with native animals for food and shelter.
Unwanted exotic pets should be given to another caretaker or brought to an Exotic Pet Amnesty Days event where they will be provided with a proper home.