Invasive Species Management


Ellen Lake, Ph.D., Research Entomologist (USDA) and Alex Chapman, Biological Science Technician (USDA) -- Lygodium Bio Control

Treatment and management of invasive exotic plants has been identified as one of the highest priorities within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Invasive exotic plants displace native plant communities and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Their rapid growth and copious seed production permit the establishment of dense, impenetrable forests and thickets that shade out desirable native plant species, affect water flow and drainage, obstruct human and wildlife movement and public viewing opportunities. Invasive exotic plants degrade native habitat quality by decreasing native species abundance and diversity.

One of the primary goals of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is to bring four highly invasive exotic plant species into maintenance control. These species include Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthfolius), Australian pine (Casuarina species), Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) and Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum). 

Brazillian pepper 
Australian pine
Old World
climbing fern

The Refuge employs a variety of management techniques to control invasive exotic plants including herbicides (primary means), mechanical controls (heavy equipment), cultural controls (prescribed fire), physical controls (hand pulling seedlings & vines), and biological controls (insects - when available). Invasive exotic removal work is performed by Refuge staff, independent contractors, volunteers, and volunteer groups.

In addition to invasive exotic plants, invasive exotic animals pose a serious threat to native wildlife and habitats on the Refuge as well. Most of the invasive exotic animals that currently impact the Refuge and have the potential for future invasions originated as pets and were subsequently released into the wild by their owners. Many of these animals like pythons and the black and white tegu become quite large and the original owner was not prepared for the challenging care needed once they mature. Of significant concern on or near the Refuge are several exotic fish, reptile and amphibian species such as the Cuban tree frog, Burmese python, bullseye snakehead, and the Nile monitor. Similar to invasive exotic plants, these exotic animals out compete their native counterparts for resources and in several cases like the Cuban tree frog, they even feed on the natives, like the green tree frog. For more information on what is being done to combat invasive species in Florida visit the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (ECISMA) website.

Cuban tree frog 
Burmese Python - Susan Jewell-USFWS-SE - 125x98
Burmese python 
Bullseye snakehead
Nile monitor