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Non-native and Invasive Species of Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics

Exotic species are organisms that have moved beyond their natural geographical range either via human induced, accidental or purposeful introductions. Invasive species are known to have a negative impact on the ecosystem of a particular habitat or another species. It is not surprising that Florida has one of the most severe non-native species problems. Much of the state consists of a patchwork of habitats resulting from human activities such as agriculture, water management, dredging and filling and residential development. Due to the lack of naturally limiting predators, unoccupied niches or where an introduced species outcompetes native species, invasive plants are dominating ecosystems in many areas of Florida.

Black rats (Rattus rattus) are established on wetlands and on islands within Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve (MLAP) and can be detrimental to recreational campers, native bird species and other ground or arboreal nesters. Armadillos occasionally are found on islands within the Mosquito Lagoon; however, they have not caused extensive damage to native habitats.

Two species of fire ants are found in Florida. Most notorious is Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant (RIFA), followed by the much less common S. geminata, the tropical or native fire ant. RIFA was first introduced from Brazil into either Mobile, Alabama or Pensacola, Florida between 1933 and 1945. Since the introduction of RIFA, it has become a major agricultural and urban pest throughout the southeastern states. In addition, fire ants cause both medical and environmental harm.

RIFA have been reported to reduce ground-nesting populations of rodents and birds. In certain instances, RIFA may completely eliminate ground-nesting species from a given area. The cost associated with the control of RIFA is significant. State and federal agencies have spent more than $250 million in order to control or eradicate this fire ant.

Twenty-one non-native species of fish have been documented in east central Florida, however the majority of these are primarily fresh water species. Fish species such as tilapia (Tilapia spp.) are able to breed and survive in both fresh and brackish systems and are known to be established in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).

In the IRL, a number of invertebrate species have invaded in recent years. For example, the Australian spotted jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata) was first documented in the summer of 2001. This species is known for its voracious ability to consume zooplankton, including fish larvae. Other IRL invaders include crabs (Scylla serrata and Charybdis hellerii). It is not known if reproductive populations of either of these crabs are still present in the lagoon.

Green mussels

Green mussels
Photo: Buck Albert, USGS

The charru mussel (Mytella charruana) now appears to be established within the Mosquito Lagoon. However, their numbers appear to be declining. The species may compete with important native oyster populations already in decline. Another non-native invasive bivalve is the Asian green mussel (Perna viridis). This species is pervasive in parts of upper Tampa Bay and is present in high numbers in Jacksonville. Few individuals of Asian green mussel have been found in Mosquito Lagoon but new observations were reported in northern Mosquito Lagoon in late 2008.

Brazilian pepper and Australian pine are the most problematic invasive plant species on shorelines, within impoundment and dragline ditch berms and on natural and spoil islands of MLAP. Both species are at the northern extent of their range and severe invasive plant densities seen further south within the IRL are not currently observed in MLAP. This is also due to local government non-native invasive control efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated: April 06, 2015

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