10 Ways to Observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Florida

February 26 – March 3, 2012

What is an “Invasive Species”? It is a non-native plant, animal, fungus or other organism whose arrival causes or is likely to cause economic harm, environmental harm, or harm to human health. These “invaders” are aggressive species which grow and reproduce rapidly, causing major problems to the new areas in which they thrive.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week includes activities, briefings, workshops and events across the United States. It is focused on creating solutions to address invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management issues at local, state, tribal, regional, national and international scales. Check www.nisaw.org for more details and further developments!  
10 Ways to Observe NISAW in Florida

Research invasive species.
1.   Do Some Research: You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home. Get on the internet and find out what’s invasive in your area, region or state. Identify which species might be growing in your backyard or neighborhood. Learn to recognize common invaders and keep an eye out for signs of new ones. Check trees, gardens, vacant lots, roadsides, yards, agricultural areas, wetlands, ponds, and lakes. Early detection is crucial to stopping the spread of invasive species! Start with the USDA Database.

2.    Join in an Eradication Effort: Many parks and nature reserves manually remove invasive plants (and sometimes animals) with the help of local volunteers. These outings are a great way to get some exercise, enjoy time outdoors, meet new friends, and gain the satisfaction of knowing that you are protecting your natural heritage. A list of activities is provided here.
Report what you see.

3.   Become a Citizen Scientist: Working out in the field can be a very rewarding way to combat invasive species. Whether you are collecting scientific data to be used by local, state, or national agencies and organizations or actually helping get rid of the invasive plants and animal, you will be able to see up close and personal the impacts of invasive species and the results of your efforts. Visit Citizen Science Central (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citsci/) for more information. To learn how report sightings of invaders, visit the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System at www.eddmaps.org/florida.

4.   Visit a Garden, Park or Nature Center: Spend an afternoon at a botanic garden, park or natural area and familiarize yourself with the native flora and fauna in your area. Take a guided tour of one of Florida's State Parks or National Parks.
Hit the books!

5.   Read a Book: Not an outdoor type? Not to worry, even bookworms can participate in National Invasive Species Awareness Week. One Florida-specific text about the impact and management of Florida’s invasive species is Strangers in Paradise (Island Press). In Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, the author makes a compelling, ecologically-based case for eliminating invasive alien species, using native plants, and replacing sterile lawns.

6.   Donate: If you can’t give time, you might be able to give money. Even small amounts can help local invasive species organizations with control and management and other costs. Local conservation organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Florida Native Plant Society and Friends of Florida State Parks have invasive species programs.
Get gardening!

7.   Start a Garden: Replace your invasive landscape plants with native alternatives. Unlike many non‐native plants, native plants are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and unlikely to escape and become invasive. The great variety of plants native to any region give gardeners options that work well in any type of garden design. Because maintaining native plants requires less work, they provide excellent choices for large commercial landscapes as well as residential gardens. Of course, native plants have other benefits. They help conserve water, reduce mowing costs, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, protect the soil and save money on fertilizer and pesticides. Information on planting natives can be found at www.fnps.org , and www.afnn.org, including plant selection tools and information on where to purchase native plants locally.

8.   Legislate: Write a letter to your local state representative or get involved with an activist group. Support federal or state efforts to restrict the importation of dangerous species such as the four large snakes recently banned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help protect the Everglades. Let your lawmakers know your opinions about the impact of invasive species on our natural heritage. Work on the local level to ensure that your community implements Florida Friendly Yards landscape ordinances.

Don't allow hitchhikers!
9.   Take the Invasive Species Challenge: One of the most effective ways to manage invasive species is by educating recreational boaters/fishermen, hobbyist pet owners, hikers and gardeners about how to avoid becoming vehicles of dispersion. Here are some easy everyday things you can do to meet the Invasive Species Challenge:
  • Boaters: Clean, drain and dry your boat trailer and gear every time you leave a body of water.
  • Pet Owners: If you have acquired an undesirable pet or fish species for your aquarium or water garden, it is important not to release these plants or animals into the environment. Follow these tips from Habitattitude for aquarium hobbyists and backyard pond owners.
  • Travelers, Hikers, Bikers, Birders, & Campers: Do not move firewood and other harvested wood out of the local area, as this has been found to spread Laurel Wilt, an exotic disease of Red Bay and Avocado trees infected by the wood boring ambrosia beetle.
  • Gardeners: Not all are non-native species are bad, but some plants that look lovely in your garden might be harmful invaders that will make their way into natural areas. The Be PlantWise website has easy tips on how to manage your garden to preserve the unique qualities of neighboring wildlands. In addition, the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council website has easy tips on how to avoid purchasing invasive plants.
Get the word out!

10. Spread Awareness: Take your National Invasive Species Awareness Week commitment beyond this week. Tell your friends, family, neighbors and others about invasive species! Have an invasive species dinner of Feral Hog, Lionfish or Asian Carp with Kudzu. It’s a big country and we can't get the word out to everyone without your help. Encourage them to get involved with National Invasive Species Awareness Week in their own way.

Florida-specific elements incorporated into National Invasive Species Awareness Week flyer by Fritz Wettstein, F.N.P.S. Magnolia Chapter President, and Laurie Sheldon


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