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Invasive Species: Non-Native Reptiles and Amphibians in Florida

Sep 14, 2015 01:14 PM EDT

Florida's warm weather attracts invasive reptile and amphibian species to establish new homes and breeding grounds, according to researchers from the University of Florida. Their study was recently published in the journal Herpetological Conservation Biology, and they hope it will spur further action to protect the Everglades and other key areas of Florida from invasions.

"Early detection and rapid response efforts are essential to prevent more of the 140 introduced species from establishing breeding populations, and this study helps us choose where to look first," Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecology and conservation professor at the University of Florida, said in a news release.

The researchers noted that this high rate of invasion could be linked to Americans importing exotic animals for the pet industry and other purposes. According to the news release, the U.S. has the highest exotic animal imports of any country in the world. From 2005 to 2008, more than one billion animals entered the country, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Brought in by boats and planes, these animals are used for trade, religion or food.

Florida provides ample ground for breeding, and when the invasive animals establish themselves, they are harder to remove. Non-native species can also be devastating to biodiversity worldwide, and Florida is home to more of these invasive wild reptiles and amphibians than anywhere else in the world, according to the release.

"We need to focus immediate management efforts on South Florida, or invasive wildlife could jeopardize Everglades restoration," Mazzotti explained in the release.

Their study provides data on how this invasive wildlife can be managed before it's too late. 

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