By Jackson Jablonski, agronomy master’s student with UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (CAIP)
Invasive plants pose a variety of threats to the environment, economy, and human health around the world. They can thrive in Florida because of warm temperatures, high rainfall, and land disturbance from human interaction. This blog outlines a process called Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR), which is a tool used to identify a new invasive species and establish what kind of protections are needed to secure the integrity of our ecosystems after they’ve arrived. This valuable tool enables Floridians to quickly manage an invasive species outbreak and involves four steps:
1. Preparation and Monitoring
As the first aspect of EDRR, this requires input from your community and extension agents to keep an eye out for invasive species that may be in your area. Once a species with a major threat has been identified, the next step is assessment.
The assessment step requires proper plant identification, often by a natural area land manager such as an extension specialist, to confirm the presence of the invasive species, evaluate the situation, and develop a management plan.
The next step in EDRR is response. After careful consideration, this step employs action plans to control the new invasive species population. Response to the infestation may include management techniques including mechanical, chemical, physical, cultural, or a combination of these control methods.
4. Follow-up Monitoring
Lastly, follow-up monitoring is ideal to check how the infestation is responding to the action plan devised in the previous step and to assess if any further action is needed. This is absolutely critical to ensure success. Basic follow-up monitoring should entail a quick visual inspection of infested areas that were treated. More intensive efforts may involve assessing the survival of below-ground tissues, such as the rhizomes of cogongrass.
A successful example of using EDRR comes from a professor from the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, Dr. Stephen Enloe. In 2018, Dr. Enloe and his team were monitoring an invasive forb on the beach dunes of St. Augustine, Florida. However, upon traveling back to his truck to retrieve an item, he noticed a large sprawling home that appeared to be unkept for some time. As an aquatic and invasive researcher, one of the first things Dr. Enloe noticed was a sealed rowboat in the front yard being used as a water feature where a floating plant was growing prolifically. He identified the plant to be a type of floating aquatic fern called Salvinia. Confident in his identification of the Giant Salvinia plant, scientifically known as Salvinia molesta, he reached out to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), to inform them of the threat. Within 24 hours, FDACS inspectors contacted the homeowner and learned that friends of the homeowner brought the plant from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Florida because of its uniqueness. After becoming aware of the invasive plant, FDACS assisted the homeowner in completely removing the noxious weed from the water feature. Subsequent monitoring of the water feature indicated the eradication was successful, with no new plants appearing over the next few years.
What if the situation has moved beyond eligibility for Early Detection Rapid Response?
If an infestation is not eligible for EDRR, the plant is likely to be cataloged by the UF/IFAS Assessment or the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC). In this case, management goals would shift to resource protection and long-term control.
New technologies and programs are being developed every day to expand invasive plant management effectiveness. But, many of the things we have covered so far are reactive types of control. However, new tools to be proactive in control are just as important in preventing introduction in the first place, such as the Horizon scanning project and risk assessment tools developed by the University of Florida.
If a species is too widespread or costly to eradicate, what’s next?
When eradication no longer becomes feasible, invasive plants can be categorized by the FLEPPC. These definitions help us by determining which invasives have the largest impact and have the highest management priority. There are two categories that species are put into:
- Category 1: Invasives that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives
- Category 2: Invasives that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities
This blog post was written by Jackson Jablonski, agronomy master’s student with UF/IFAS CAIP. Questions or comments can be sent to the UF/IFAS CAIP communications manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow UF/IFAS CAIP on social media at @ufifascaip. Read more blogs like this one on the UF/IFAS CAIP blog.
UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Turning Science Into Solutions.