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US (FL): Study finds more funding is needed for battling invasive plants

For decades, Florida communities have battled invasive plants on land and water. These plants disrupt native ecosystems and livelihoods, and more arrive each year.

Now a new study from the University of Florida and The Nature Conservancy shows that nearly $45 million in state and federal funding per year is spent in Florida to gain the upper hand on invasive plants in natural areas and waters, and that success depends on how well control efforts are funded.

Florida consistently ranks among the top three states most affected by invasive plants, said S. Luke Flory, associate professor of ecology with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of the study’s authors.

“Most plants have what we call ‘natural enemies,’ which are pests, diseases or predators that keep plant population at stable levels. When a plant is introduced into a new area, the natural enemies that used to keep them in check in their native habitat may not be present in that new area. Without any natural enemies to stop them, these new plants may dominate, negatively impacting existing plants, wildlife and the people who use those areas,” Flory said.

For instance, aquatic plants such as hydrilla and water hyacinth clog waterways and drainage canals. Cogongrass increases fire risk and decreases pasture for cattle. Air potato can engulf natural areas with its fast-growing vines, and Brazilian peppertree can alter habitat and diminish recreational value.


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