=Invasive Animal Species
One of the Florida Keys’ most dangerous invasive species is the lionfish. First discovered as an introduced species in 2009, and the lionfish population impacts the original flora and fauna of the Florida Keys in three major ways. The lionfish has no known natural predators in the Atlantic Ocean, an appetite for native fish and crustaceans, and the lionfish is able to spawn year-round. Originating in the Pacific Ocean, the lionfish invades the Atlantic Ocean without any know predator. The lack of a natural predator, to keep the lionfish population at bay, allows the lionfish population to grow to unsafe numbers. Lionfish are predators of juvenile fish such as, commercially important, grouper and snapper, as well as juvenile parrotfish, which graze on algae in coral reefs preventing the algae from overgrowing and killing corals. The lionfish’s dietary consumption of native species of the Florida Keys not only affects the species diversity of the Florida Keys, but also causes detriment to the environment due to a decrease in fish who help maintain the coral reefs. The regular spawning of the lionfish further impacts the environment of the Florida Keys; which therefore always maintains a stable reproductive population. This stable reproductive lionfish population produces 30,000 to 40,000 eggs that will birth sexually mature Lionfish by the time they are a year old. The regular spawning of the lionfish creates a constant pressure on the Florid Keys.
Invasive Exotic Plants
There are various introduced plants within the Florida Keys. Many of these plants outcompete the original plants of the Keys, such as mangroves and seagrass. The animals who rely on these plants for food and habitat also become at risk, with the imminent threat of invasive plants. There are four main exotic plant species that have become so invasive in the Florida Keys that they threaten and endanger 42 native plant species and 27 animal species to the point of extinction. Australian Pine, Brazilian pepper or Florida holly, Asiatic colubrina, and Melalueca all pose a risk to the flora and fauna of the Florida Keys.
The Australian pine is one of the many nonnative species of plant in Florida. The Australian pine poses many risks to the original flora and fauna of the Florida Keys. The Australian pine "outcompetes native vegetation by producing a dense leaf litter beneath them;" therefore the Australian pine does not allow the native plants to obtain the needed nutrients for life. The Australian pine also has a comparative advantage over native species, the Australian pine is able to quickly "invade newly accreted beaches, beaches where dredge spoil has been deposited, and beaches where a storm has destroyed existing vegetation." The competitive nature of the Australian pine displaces the native flora of the Florida keys. While displacing the native fauna of the Florida Keys, by providing no native wildlife habitat.
The Brazilian pepper is one of the many nonnative species of plant in Florida. The Brazilian pepper poses many risks to the original flora and fauna of the Florida Keys. The Brazilian pepper tree is native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. Brazilian pepper tree was brought to Florida in the mid-1800’s as an ornamental plant. The introduction of the Brazilian pepper has deeply impacted the biodiversity of the Florida ecosystem, as one of the most aggressive and wide-spread of the invasive non-indigenous exotic pest plants in the State of Florida. The Brazilian pepper tree has invaded over 700,000 acres in Florida. Brazilian pepper tree produces a dense canopy that shades out all other plants and provides a very poor habitat for growth to native species. "The Brazilian pepper invades aquatic as well as terrestrial habitats, reducing the quality of native biotic communities."[ Therefore the introduction of the Brazilian pepper has harmed the natural biodiversity of the Florida ecosystem by outcompeting native plants.
- OLSEN, ERIK. "Florida Keys Declare Open Season on the Invasive Lionfish". New York Times.
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- Bleier, Evan. "Lionfish invasion is threatening the Atlantic Ocean".
- Marshall, Diane. "Bad Plants in the Keys".
- "Australian Pine: Casuarina species".
- "Brazilian pepper-tree".