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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mulch is magical for our gardens || Drought enables spread of Everglades-choking exotic plants!!!!!!!


South Florida’s record-setting drought delivered a setback to the fight against exotic plants spreading across the Everglades.
Melaleuca and other fast-growing transplants from other parts of the world are a threat to the Everglades because they overwhelm and crowd out native plants, which hurts wildlife habitat.
Much of the Everglades dried out during what turned out to be the driest October-to-June stretch on record in South Florida.



Particularly hard hit was the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, considered the northern remnants of the Everglades. The refuge, which stretches across western Palm Beach County, at one point was 95 percent dry.

Those dry conditions enabled exotic plants to spread, but cut off airboat access to the interior of the refuge. Without airboat access, contractors hired to kill exotics couldn’t do their work.
"We came to a standstill because we just couldn’t do anything out there because of the low water," said refuge manager Sylvia Pelizza of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "We might have lost some ground."
The refuge extends across 144,000 acres, providing habitat for more than 257 species of birds. The refuge is also one of the three Everglades water conservation areas where levees help contain stormwater that supplements regional supplies.
Summer rains have helped raise water levels in the southern end of the refuge, but the northern portion remains cutoff to airboat access.
Aside from the drought, the refuge suffers from man-made manipulations of water levels.
Providing water and flood control for farms and towns built on what used to be the Everglades siphons away water that would otherwise go the refuge and other remaining sections of the River of Grass. Without that water, the damaging environmental effects of periodic droughts are multiplied.


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