How Hurricanes Are Increasing the Spread of Invasive Species In Our Communities
Hurricanes are known for flooding, widespread destruction, and displacement of families. But a less recognized consequence of hurricanes is the spread of invasive species. When hurricanes pass over vast areas, water levels rise and disperse plants and animals to new habitats. This phenomenon can have a detrimental effect on our communities – and it’s becoming more commonplace as these weather events continue their pattern of increased frequency and intensity.
Invasive Species Can Be Introduced From Overseas
We often associate the presence of invasive species with global trade or the illegal pet industry. And, in some cases, invasive species have been purposefully introduced for objectives like pest control. Herbivorous Triploid Grass Carp, for example, is used for natural aquatic weed management in lakes and ponds. Though native to Eastern Asia, their populations are kept in check through legal oversight and mandatory sterilization. Conversely, South American cane toads (also known as bufo toads) were introduced to Florida in the 1930s to help control sugar cane pests. Unfortunately, due to irresponsible management, their populations have exploded. Now, they are outcompeting native toads for food and habitat, and continue encroaching new regions each year.
Species Spread by Hurricanes: Apple Snails, Burmese Pythons, Zebra Mussels, Armored Catfish & More
Hurricanes are helping to expedite this process. In fact, 2020’s Hurricane Isaias displaced at least 114 aquatic species, according to the United States Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species team. Among them was the apple snail, which aggressively feeds on vegetation that native snails need to survive. Though they are normally found in coastal areas across Florida, seasonal hurricanes are pushing them inland. This is the case for many other foreign invaders, including Burmese pythons, zebra mussels, armored catfish, and blue tilapia, to name a few. Each of these animals has an alarming impact on our ecosystems, from shoreline degradation to stormwater equipment damage.
Invasive Species Like Phragmites & Alligatorweed Feed On Beneficial Plants
Invasive species don’t just outcompete their native counterparts, they contribute to a restructuring of the entire food web. They excessively feed on beneficial plants, allowing vegetation like Phragmites, Brazilian Elodea, watermilfoil, alligatorweed, and hydrilla to grow in their place. Eventually, these small changes can have a far-reaching impact on our stormwater facilities, drinking water reservoirs, and irrigation systems. In fact, the spread of invasive species costs the United States an estimated $120 billion a year.
Invasive Bufo Toads & Apple Snails Resemble Beneficial Species
We face hundreds of hurricanes in the coming years, which we know will continue exacerbating these problems. Stopping the spread may seem like a lost cause, but we all can play a role in preventing the dispersion of invasive plants and animals in our areas. Municipalities, health departments, and other community groups can find great success through public education. Many people are unable to distinguish invasive species from their native counterparts. Bufo toads, apple snails, and many plants closely resemble the beneficial species with which they’re competing. And in some cases, invasive plants like Lantana are seen as a beautiful addition to natural areas due to visually appealing flowers and colors.
Take A Proactive Approach
Our waterways play a large role in the spread of invasives due to hurricanes and tropical storms. That’s why proactive management around lakes and ponds is so important. Regular monitoring may help identify an undesirable species early on so that intervention can take place before it gets out of hand. Professional annual management programs make this easy. Aquatic Specialists have the access and authority to use highly-targeted EPA-registered pesticides, as well as advanced technologies like drones to make surveillance safer, more efficient, and more precise. Professionals also have reliable strategies to cultivate the delicate habitat back to its original state, such as water quality testing, shoreline restoration, buffer management, biological augmentation, nutrient remediation, and aeration using innovations like Oxygen Saturation Technology.
Offering Premiere Lake Services Like Aquatic Weed Control & Invasive Species Prevention
The spread of invasive species is a problem that won’t go away anytime soon, but it is not a lost cause. If you suspect an invasive plant or animal is present in your area, be sure to contact a professional for identification and sustainable management.
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SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, pond, wetland, and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae, and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, shoreline erosion restoration, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. SOLitude Lake Management is a proud member of the Rentokil Steritech family of companies in North America.