The branches of the invasive black mangrove wrap themselves around the white mangrove, South Florida’s native mangrove, resembling a chokehold. Like a person loses oxygen, the white mangrove loses something equally as vital: resources.
The species was first planted by a group of horticulturists in the 1960s that followed in the footsteps of local South Florida botanist David Fairchild through the establishment of a facility of diverse plant species.
The black mangrove was among these species. Little did botanists know the threat this species would pose to the South Florida ecosystem.
In 2010, botanists realized the mangrove had spread and was severely infesting the mangrove forests at Matheson Hammock Park.
The Fairchild staff found and eradicated 20,000 adult mangroves. However, the infestation persists, and thousands of the invasive mangrove species seedlings are still found at Matheson Hammock Park.
Mangrove habitats were previously considered unable to be invaded, but the black mangrove disproved this theory.
Botanists and horticulturists theorize that the lack of biodiversity of South Florida’s mangrove forest leaves them susceptible to invasion. A habitat that was once viewed as indestructible is now in danger of decay.
“This is the first exotic mangrove infestation of this magnitude. It is unlike anything South Florida has ever seen within the mangrove forests,” Fairchild field biologist Jennifer Possley said.
Indeed the threat of displacment is imminent as consequences hang over our head. If the invasive mangrove species displaces the native mangroves there will be a severe lack biodiversity within the mangrove forests.
“The most worrisome factor is that the [black mangrove] has potential to wipe out the white and black mangroves in certain parts of South Florida,” Possley said.