Non-native, invasive plants and animals threaten Florida's beautiful native wildlife. Species not found in Florida prior to the arrival of the first European settlers are considered non-native or exotic, and these species can become invasive when they defeat native species in the life-long competition for food, sunlight, and space. They grow quickly, spread rapidly, and often displace native plants. When native plants get crowded out, the area can become a "monoculture" which is unsuitable habitat for wildlife. In general, invasive vegetation provides a habitat with inadequate shelter and insubstantial nutrient value for native wildlife.
The state of Florida spends millions of dollars annually on invasive species control. The figures are staggering and invasive species require constant maintenance so that they do not squelch the native species. According to the 2011-2012 Aquatic Plant Management report from FWC, "Invasive plants infest 94% of Florida's 438 public waters inventoried in 2012 that comprise 1.26 million acres of fresh water."
The problem does not end with plants. More species of insects, fish, and reptiles are being discovered here every day. These flying, swimming, and slithering invaders have either arrived accidentally, have escaped captivity, or have been freed by their former owners who have become unable or unwilling to care for them any longer.
The environmental impacts of many recent arrivals have not been fully realized, and scientists are trying to learn about these species before their presence here creates problems beyond repair. Some of the most problematic species affecting the reserve include Brazilian pepper, feral pig, and pythons.