Monday, February 1, 2010

Birds and the Spread of Brazilian Pepper


Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) is one of about a zillion species of non-native plants and animals that have been let loose on the landscape of Florida and are causing incalculable environmental problems for native fish and wildlife. You can learn more about Brazilian Pepper and its distribution in Florida at this link.

The 3-acre wetland that sits outside of my lanai is ringed with woody vegetation and unfortunately much of that woody vegetation is Brazilian Pepper. I started thinking about this plant a bit this morning when I saw a flock of maybe 200 American Robins gorging themselves on the abundant berries that are at their peak right about now.

Granted the berries provide a food source for American Robins and other wintering seed-eating species like Gray Catbird and Cedar Waxwing. However as the link above states, birds and other wildlife are a principal vehicle for the distribution of this species in the state. Every time an American Robin or another species eats a Brazilian Pepper seed and later takes a Cheney somewhere else, the seeds of the plant are being spread further afield and are likely to do more environmental damage.

The state of Florida maintains an Invasive Plant Management Section in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Their never-ending task is to provide funds to other agencies and groups to try to control Brazilian Pepper and a whole host of other non-native plants. The Section spends several million dollars a year on this almost pointless effort. And its almost pointless because every time some bird eats a seed and takes a Cheney afterward the task of the Invasive Plant Management Section just became more difficult.

Unfortunately this nonsense will continue and do so until all native vegetation has been replaced by invasives. That continues to happen because law makers refuse to clamp down on the importation of plants and exotic animals (think Burmese Python for instance). After all, nurseries bring money into the state and we can't stand in the way of someone trying to make money.

I'm just glad I'm going to dead in less than 30 years so I don't have to witness even more of Mother Earth being defiled in the name of greed and stupidity.

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