Mark Musaus is former Refuge Manager of the Loxahatchee NWR.
An invasive plant, Old World climbing fern, is smothering about 72% of the Refuge. This tenacious vine with 100-foot-long tendrils kills plants by either blocking out light or by causing trees and other native plants to collapse under the weight. Because aerial spraying kills all plants, the climbing fern stems must be hand-cut. Then the lower portions are sprayed. Crews, brought to each island by air boat, often stand in nearly waist high water.
Climbing ferns are remarkably quick to release spores and propagate. So quick that the crew must return to the site for the next two years to fully eradicate the ferns. Five or six insects have been identified to eat Climbing ferns in their native soils. They are being researched to keep the ferns at bay provided they only chew on the invasive plant and not others. Water quality and the quantity of water flowing into the Everglades are issues no less pressing.