SFWMD Governing Board Votes to Raise Army of Creepy Crawlies to Battle an Evil Fern
District funds USDA laboratory research for insects to fight the spread of invasive Lygodium
in Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
|Click on the image to see a larger version of invasive Lygodium overtaking a South Florida cypress swamp. The SFWMD Governing Board voted to fund research to develop biological controls to fight the spread of this plant.
West Palm Beach, FL - The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board on Thursday voted to fund research to develop biological controls to slow the invasion of
Lygodium, an invasive plant that is strangling tree islands in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. Biological control seeks to reduce the spread of invasive plants by reintroducing natural pests from the species' native range.
"Cutting-edge science has always played a critical role in everything we do at the District," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Federico Fernandez. "The Governing Board is excited to be a part of an innovative partnership that will utilize the latest biological methods to tackle the problems created by
The $750,000 program, approved by the Governing Board, funds research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Davie. Scientists will identify insects that only feed on
Lygodium then conduct experiments to verify that the insects will not feed on Florida native or economically important plants.
These insects can be used to attack
Lygodium in the Refuge, where its spread increased by more than 600 percent over the past 20 years. The invasive plant is destroying many tree islands in the Refuge, a key component of the Everglades ecosystem and crucial to the survival of native wildlife.
In addition to biological research to develop an insect weapon against
Lygodium, SFWMD is also engaged with federal and state agencies to super-charge the fight on the ground against the invasive fern. As part of a partnership reached with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which operates the Refuge on land owned by the District and the state of Florida, USFWS has given the District $2.5 million this year to fight
Lygodium. USFWS will continue to fund efforts for the next nine years and initiate efforts to raise additional funding for SFWMD efforts to eradicate
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is also a significant contributor in funding the fight against
Lygodium in the Refuge, providing $1 million this year alone.