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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-- Environmentalists say from Lake Okeechobee south, the climate provides ideal growing conditions which is great for farmers, but proving troublesome for native species being push out by invasive plants.
“If we allow invasive plants to go unchecked there’s less habitat, there’s less places for them to live, to feed and to roost,” said Kristina Serbesoff-King.
Serbesoff-King works for the Nature Conservancy of Florida. She’s part of a recent study published at the University of Florida that digs deeper into what state officials are doing to fight back against invasive plant and animal species throughout the state.
“It shows just how important it is to identify those species early on in the process of invasion,” said Luke Flory.
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Flory was instrumental in the recent research. He found that Florida spends $45 million annually in the battle against non-native plant species. A quarter of the budget is going to hydrilla, an aquatic plant known to block waterways and limit boat traffic.
“And those things can actually take off pretty quickly and so one of the other things that we hope comes out of the study is the need for sustained and continued funding because it is really something that we would like to keep in check so that there is less impacts,” said Serbesoff-King.
South Florida and Central Florida receive the most funding. Experts say these areas have more invasive plants compared to the rest of the state but also an ideal climate that make them grow at a faster rate.
Winding Waters, part of Palm Beach County’s Natural Areas program has received a lot of attention in the last 18 years.
“You know this is one of the birding meccas in Palm Beach County,” said Benji Studt.
The county acquired 548 acres nestled in the middle of West Palm Beach in 2001. Since then bond funds and grant money has provided 300 million dollars worth of restoration projects to reverse the damage from nonnative plants and animals to the area.
“So all of the wetlands that you can walk around here that is filled with bird life, this was once filled with exotics,” said Studt.
Although a lot has been done at local, state and federal levels to protect and preserve natural lands and wildlife in Florida, the study’s authors say more can still be done.