Technological advances could help rid the Everglades of its numerous and dangerous invasive species.
The 2015 Everglades Invasive Species Summit was a successful and eye-opening experience for those in attendance. The summit allows research groups to present their findings on the many invasive species that now call Florida’s Everglades National Park home.
The summit also allowed biologists and officials to unveil the latest projects that deal with the ever-increasing threat of invasive species. These new technological advances could help turn the tides on the species as they disrupt more and more of the Everglades ecosystems.
While numerous species are being watched- such as Argentine tegu lizards, speckled caiman, and chameleons- the focus of biologist’s research is on the Burmese python. The python first threatened the Everglades in the early 2000s after researchers suspected they were released or escaped from their owners’ cages.
The snakes, capable of growing up to 20 feet in length and eating game as large as deer, have since proliferated into the tens of thousands.
New GPS trackers are allowing officials to monitor the python’s traveling habits as well as better understand how they interact with the environment. This will allow them to design better traps and place them in areas the snakes are known to pass through most frequently. They are hoping the trackers will allow them to find nests and areas that hold large clusters of the snakes.
Some researchers have also begun to identify pheromones that will attract the pythons in the direction of the traps.
Florida launched an app in February that allows people to take photos or pinpoint locations where various invasive species have been spotted. They take the data and continuously map out areas to pinpoint high populations of species.
The use of this technology is great, but it may be too late to stop the spread of some of the species. Even with increased efforts, the populations of Burmese python, lion fish, and speckled caiman continue to grow at an alarming rate and can no longer be eliminated completely from the Everglades.
The key now is to find and eliminate their populations in their early stages of invasion. This proved successful with African rock pythons, Gambian pouched rats, and a few other species. The chameleon’s populations have dropped from the hundreds down to single digits thanks to the quick response to removing them.
“Maybe tegus aren’t popping up in their backyards, but if you look around the country invasive species are causing problems everywhere,” said Frank Mozzotti, a researcher at the University of Florida.
“If it’s not carp in the Great Lakes, it’s some other species somewhere else. And what we learn to help solve invasive species here may help somebody in Iowa solve an invasive species in their backyard.”