Invasive plant species threatening tree islands at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Posted at 7:08 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 06:00:44-05

The Everglades is home to some of the most interesting and unique wildlife that Florida has to offer. 
But right now, that home is under siege by an unwelcome visitor.
“This is bad, but it'll actually get worse than this in some areas,” says Rolf  Olson, manager of the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge.


It's called Lygodium - an invasive plant from Asia otherwise known as 'Old World Climbing Fern'. 
Olson says it's a tree killer. 
"It'll completely grow over this native vegetation, smother the shade, take all the light,” he says.
It's bad news for the animals - such as birds and deer.
“It would be a transformation from one habitat type to another,” Olson says. “And it's pretty much destroying the home for a lot of the animals that use the Everglades.”
Efforts are being made to keep it under control - but its tough to make a dent. 
"We have chemicals that will kill it back for a while, but you'll come back here in 6 months to a year and it'll be growing right back again," Olson says.
Elinor Williams with the organization 'Friends of the Wildlife Refuge' says millions of dollars are already going in to fight it, but considering how quickly it spreads, more is needed. 
“Approximately $5 million a year for at least the next five years would be needed to get Lygodium under maintenance control,” she says.
After that, she says millions of additional dollars would be needed to keep it under control. 
It's the price to pay, Williams says, to keep an iconic national treasure in tact. 
“If nothing else, I think there's a lot of groups that have raised awareness, and government at all levels are trying to find the funding,” she says. “Let's just hope it helps.”