December4 , 2022

    Invasive Species Turning Florida from Paradise into a Jungle

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    Genesis relates that God placed man in a paradise known as the Garden of Eden. Man’s role was to work the Garden and to take care of it. A snake got involved, man dropped the ball, and paradise was lost. History appears to be repeating itself in Florida, and we need to be in prayer for the land that God has entrusted us with.

    The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15

    Early residents of the Sunshine State found themselves in a veritable paradise with warm weather and beautiful beaches. Over the years Florida has turned from a paradise into a jungle. As a result of overdevelopment by man, many areas of the state are now concrete jungles. Man’s actions have also led to the introduction of non-native, invasive species including snakes, specifically Burmese Pythons. The presence of these species put Floridians in a real jungle.

    Florida is a top destination for tourists. But, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food And Agricultural Sciences, it is a national and global hot spot for non-native, invasive species too. The state is the point of entry for about three-quarters of the plants imported into the U.S. and the majority of the world reptile trade. Florida residents get to share the state with thousands of tourists and over 500 non-native fish, wildlife, and plant species.

    Because of the presence of these many invasive species, all of Florida’s native habitats–marine, freshwater, and land–are now threatened. The invaders are a cause of great concern practically, financially, and environmentally. Hurricane season is limited to a defined period of time during the year, but invasive species are a threat to Floridians and their environment year around.

    The financial impact invasive species have on Florida’s economy is significant. According to The Nature Conservancy, the cost of managing Florida’s invasive plants alone is $100 million annually. The non-native air potato vine, for example, is growing like a proverbial weed–but on steroids. The aggressive, noxious weed can grow up to 8 inches per DAY and smothers vegetation in its path. The cost of weeding out this weed is mounting.

    In the reptile category, green iguanas are the bane of property owners. The big lizards’ presence was first reported in Florida in the 1960’s. Since that time their population has mushroomed, and they now infest South Florida. The iguanas are destructive and leave unsanitary droppings behind.

    Photo Credit: Charles J Sharp [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
    Rhesus macaque monkeys appear in Florida’s non-native invasive animal category. In the 1930’s six of these monkeys were brought to Silver Springs in an effort to attract tourists. Although placed on an island in Silver River, the monkeys swam away and took up residence in surrounding forests. About 200 of them are estimated to now be located in Silver Springs State Park alone. The monkeys are prone to approach and intimidate park visitors, resulting in some park areas which the monkeys frequent being closed to visitors.

    Florida is known for its beautiful beaches, but danger lurks in the water. Swimming about offshore are lionfish. This nonnative species loves to snack on baby reef fish, decimating that population. These fish are a danger to humans as well. Their fin spines are highly venomous and have led to human deaths.

    Most alarming is the presence of Burmese pythons here in Florida. These snakes, while native to Southeast Asia, are Florida’s largest invasive species. Their population in the Sunshine State is believed to e