Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Read it and weep

How willow trees are invading Florida waterways

Florida has its share of problems with invasive species. Lionfish, pythons, iguana and feral hogs are only a few. There are also several invasive plant species. Why is this important? According to FPL, “Florida's ecosystems are unique. Exotic species alter the landscape of Florida and render habitats unsuitable to native species. This reduces biodiversity and puts additional strain on endangered species, of which Florida has more than any other state in the continental U.S.” (FPL, 2013).

University of Central Florida researchers have completed a study showing the Carolina willow may be thriving because of water-management projects initiated in the 1950s. These man made canal systems that dominate the Florida landscape have  unforeseen consequences. The canals were built to control runoff and provide water for farming. This very stable water environment has allowed the willow to thrive.

Reported by Science daily, willow trees now cover thousands of acres. “Willows form impenetrable thickets that prevent boating and eliminate duck habitat. Willow thickets also use tremendous amounts of water, leaving less available for wildlife and people” (SD, 2013). in the past fluctuating natural water tables kept the trees under control with dry and wet seasons, making it hard for the trees to survive. The Carolina willow is now taking over parts of the St. John's River Basin.

Other countries (i.e. Australia, Korea) have planted willow trees as a source of erosion control and are now facing similar issues (SD, 2013).

To learn more about exotic and invasive species, check out the library’s online databases and research the many topics related to these environmental issues. You can also check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife website for an overview of non-native species in Florida at this link:

Pedro F. Quintana-Ascencio, John E. Fauth, Luz M. Castro Morales, Kimberli J. Ponzio, Dianne Hall, Ken Snyder. Taming the Beast: Managing Hydrology to Control Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana) Seedlings and Cuttings. Restoration Ecology, 7 JAN 2013 

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