The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) expanded aquatic plant control operations to Fisheating Bay and Ritta Island during the first week of June 2020.
There is an estimated 1,600+ acres of Luziola subintegra, a Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) category 1 invasive plant within Fisheating Bay and the surrounding areas, explained Brendon Hession, a biological scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“With the low water fluctuations over the past year, sediment in this area has seen a large germination of Luziola,” he continued “This plant has quickly outcompeted native Spike Rush and with the dense stands Luziola creates, will not allow for any submerged aquatic vegetation to grow. If left untreated, the Luziola will spread further into the lake, increasing the area needing treatment. These treatments are necessary to limit ecological damage from the invasive plants. Mechanical harvesting is not a possible management option for Luziola due to its ability to spread through fragmentation.”
There is an estimated 125 acres of floating invasive plants (mostly water lettuce) in and around Ritta Island within Lake Okeechobee,” Mr. Hession said. “The main target of control for this treatment is to the southwest of Ritta Island where there is a 90 acre accumulation of mostly water lettuce. In this area there are clumps of water lettuce that have been moved around in littoral zones, smothering and killing native Spike Rush. This treatment is necessary to limit the ecological damage caused by invasive floating plants.
“Mechanical harvesting is not a possible control method due to depth limitations and lack of proper upland disposal. After the completion of this treatment plan, the south end of Lake Okeechobee should be in a good state of control from invasive floating plants and contractors will move to other parts of the lake,” he stated.
This treatment plan was developed with collaboration with biologists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.