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Non-indigenous species are those that exist outside their native distributional area due to unintentional or intentional human activities. The United States National Park Service (2015) estimates that roughly 50,000 non-indigenous species have been imported to the United States. Some of these species are valuable; for example, species introduced as livestock (e.g., poultry and cattle) and food crops (e.g., rice, corn, and wheat) now contribute more than 98 percent of food consumed in the United States. Additional non-indigenous species were introduced for biological pest management, landscape restoration, sports, food processing, and pet care, all of which have shown to be beneficial in a variety of ways. However, there are other non-indigenous species introduced in the US has been the main cause of economic losses in agriculture, forestry and many other segments of the US economy. A research study by Smith, Sementelli, Meshaka & Engeman, (2014), reported that 79 exotic species led to damage worth $97 billion during 1906 to 1993. This paper will discuss statistical effects of non-indigenous species in Florida Everglades National Park.
Invasive species such the Burmese python can cause permanent damage to the native species. When there is an imbalance in nature, an entire ecosystem can fail. Florida Everglades is an example of a natural park that is being vulnerable to invasive non-indigenous species¬ Burmese python (Smith, Sementelli, Meshaka & Engeman, 2014). The Burmese python presence has sparked a boundless apprehension for both the numerous animal species and plant species in Everglades ecosystem as a whole. These pythons, mainly harm the Everglades through their eating habits: the general rule is that whatever they manage to kill is potentially their next meal. The rapid population growth this python in the Everglades has been the cause of some animal species to be rare in Everglades National Park.
According to Wilson (2017), Everglades National Park is one of the most diverse areas in the US. I early 1970s, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in conjunction with Ramsar Convention, Everglades National Park was created as an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and as a wetland of international importance (Wilson, 2017). At least twenty-four endangered and threatened species live in the Everglades (Wilson, 2017).
The Burmese python, native to Southern Asia, it was introduced to the park from captive animals that were either intentionally or accidentally released. Before 2008, any person could walk to a flea market and buy a baby snake for just $20. Within a period of one year, that snake would grow to five feet or more, a size that needs a significant amount of mice and even rabbits to sustain. When Burmese python is fully grown, they can reach more than 20 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds. This fully grown python is large that could tempt even the pet-owners with good intentions to release their snakes into the wild (Willson, 2017).
Burmese pythons are known to prey on some native wildlife, including rabbits, bobcats, raccoons, rodents, Limpkins, White Ibises, Rails, and Wrens. Since there are large numbers of the Burmese pythons, they have successfully reduced the number of these native animals, thereby disrupting the natural food chain and a potentially severe impact on the ecosystem and threatening many other additional species. Scientists have developed passive methods to control the population of Burmese pythons in the park. In conjunction with other effective trap designs, they have been able to capture large numbers of pythons from Everglades National Park and its surrounding areas. The bar chart in figure 1 indicates that in 2009 alone, more than 350 pythons were captured and removed from Everglades National Park and the surroundings (Willson, 2017).Figure1. Chart indication the number of pythons removed from Everglades National Park and the surrounding areas between the year 2000 and 2012.
Research conducted by Pamela, Daniel, Denise, & William (2017), examined how native aquatic community of Everglades snails, shrimps, and fish reformed with the introduction of a non-indigenous predator (African jewelfish) and a dollar sunfish as the native predator and compared with a no-predator (control experiment). The research study revealed that there was no significant difference between a native predator and a Non-indigenous predator. Overall, there results suggested that the food-web was primarily affected by the size of the predator population.
The United States receive more than 91 million tourists each year, one of the high places they visit is the Florida Everglades, which is also a destination of undesired species− that also threaten to destroy the health of Everglades’ environment. According to Smith, Sementelli, Meshaka & Engeman (2014), the states of Florida spends more than $500 million every year due to this invasion of Non-indigenous species. It is estimated that residents of Florida state spend a total of $50 million dollars each year just to remove foreign weeds from their fields, canals, lakes, pastures, greens, and ponds. Furthermore, economic costs are meager compared to ecological ones (Smith, Sementelli, Meshaka & Engeman, 2014).
There is a major problem in the Florida Everglades National Park by the invasive species. If the management does not put in place strategies to contain the population of the Burmese python, the damage caused by these pythons in the Everglades will only get worse. Various Florida’s wildlife might become in the danger of extinction, and the already endangered species may become extinct. Nonetheless, researcher, officials, and scientists are constantly searching for innovative and better strategies to curb the issue of invasive species in Everglades National Park. The chances of finding an effective strategy improve each day as the awareness of this issue spread.
Smith, H.T., Sementelli, A., Meshaka Jr., W.E., & Engeman, R.M. (2014). Reptilian pathogens of the Florida Everglades: The Associated Costs of Burmese Pythons. Endangered Species Update, 24, 63-71.
Willson, J. D. (2017). Indirect effects of invasive Burmese pythons on ecosystems in southern Florida. Journal of Applied Ecology.
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