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Deadly fungus spreads in Everglades killing trees

"We already have these problems with invasives that are almost too daunting. When you add laurel wilt to the Nike Air Max Black And Red Womens

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MIAMI (AP) A fungus carried by an invasive beetle from southeast Asia is felling trees across the Everglades, and experts have not found a way to stop the blight from spreading.

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Old world climbing fern, melaleuca, Australian pine and Brazilian pepper are the invaders that particularly worry state and federal caretakers of the Everglades. Like the invasive Burmese pythons that are blamed for dramatic drops in the populations of native mammals in the wetlands, the plants have established a home in South Florida's sunny and wet climate.

Then there's a bigger problem the damage may be leaving Florida's fragile wetlands open to even more of an incursion from exotic plants threatening to choke the unique Everglades and undermine billions of dollars' worth of restoration projects.

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In this June 25, 2014 photo, LeRoy Rodgers maps trees in the Florida Everglades that have contacted a fungus near Miami Nike Air Max 90 Black Mesh

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That's worrisome because invasive plants may work their way into those open spaces like weeds in a garden, but worse.

Hundreds of millions of redbay trees have succumbed across six states since 2002, said Jason Smith, an expert in forest pathology at the University of Florida.

Billions of dollars have been pledged for Everglades restoration projects that span decades, but those funds are mostly focused on restoring a more natural flow of freshwater through the wetlands south to the Florida Keys.

"In Everglades restoration, we have a mantra: we want to get the water right," Rodgers said. "But if we cannot deal with the invasive species, we can get the water right but not get the Everglades we thought we were getting.".

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The same fungus also plagues commercial avocado trees and redbay trees elsewhere in Florida and the Southeast. While the state has been working with the avocado industry to mitigate the damage, there's been no way to contain it in swamp bay or redbay trees. borders in the first place.

as he flies over the area. The fungus that follows an invasive beetle from Asia is killing trees across the Everglades, and there's no way to stop the blight from spreading. Since first detected west of Miami 2011, laurel wilt has killed swamp bay trees scattered across 330,000 acres of the Everglades, a roughly 2 million acre system of state and federal lands. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

The damage is easily spotted from the air and from the highway that cuts across the Everglades. Gray skeletons of swamp bays that died in the pathogen's first wave and newly dead trees that have turned dry and brown mar the dark green tree islands that dot the vast expanse of pale sawgrass.

to remove that even if Smith finds a way to propagate swamp bays to replace the ones lost, the invasive plants could prevent them from taking root.

Each tree island is losing up to half its tree canopy, said LeRoy Rodgers, the water management district's lead invasive species biologist.

Since first detected on the edge of Miami's western suburbs in 2011, laurel wilt has killed swamp bay trees scattered across 330,000 acres of the Everglades, a roughly 2 million acre system that includes Everglades National Park. The fungus is spread by the tiny redbay ambrosia beetle, which likely arrived in this country in a shipment of wood packing material.

"It's amazing how much of an impact this one little tiny beetle that's no bigger than Lincoln's nose on a penny has done," Smith said in a recent interview. "And it continues to spread."

Nonnative plants currently comprise 16 percent of the flora in the Everglades, according to a congressionally mandated restoration progress report published last month by the National Research Council.

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The exotic plants can transform sawgrass prairies into impenetrable thickets, and they fuel explosive fires that kill native plants adapted for less intense burns. They're not a food source for native wildlife, and in coastal areas, their roots can disrupt the nests of endangered sea turtles. They're so tenacious and difficult Nike Air Max 90 Sneakerboot Green

In spite of the disturbances they cause, invasive species haven't been factored into Everglades restoration planning beyond treating invasive plants that spread during construction, and there's little funding or manpower available to fight them back, according to the report.

mix, it's only going to get worse," Air Max 90 Womens Black And White said Tylan Dean, chief of biology at Everglades National Park.

This summer, Smith will survey the national park for living swamp bay trees to collect samples in the hopes of propagating new trees resistant to the pathogen from their cuttings or seeds. The South Florida Water Management District, the state agency that oversees Everglades restoration, also plans to ramp up its monitoring and maintenance of the tree islands where swamp bays are found.

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