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Abstract

Invasive non-native plant species are causing worldwide economic and ecological damage. As an example, the State of Florida spends over 20 million dollars each year to manage just a few of the worst problem species. Many of the same plant species are also spreading into the Caribbean. Most of the introductions in Florida have been for agricultural purposes, including horticultural production. Only a few of these have become serious problems, but the consequences of these few are focusing state, national, and international attention on invasive pest issues. Invasive exotic plant research is underway within the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park to examine the effects these plants have on native flora. Research conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands is being conducted through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research (T-STAR) Program through the University of Florida. Specifically, the project is comprised of four components: 1) survey the invasive nonnative plant species, including agricultural introductions, currently existing in the natural areas of the U. S. Virgin Islands and major Cays; 2) document the ecological effects of invasive exotic plant species on native plant cover, richness, and diversity; 3) examine the effect feral ungulates (donkeys) have on native and exotic plants as well as restored ecosystems and; 4) restore a section of protected natural Virgin Islands habitat within the Virgin Islands National Park by removing invasive non-native plant species and replacing them with native plant species from local propagules. Today, exotic plants infest nearly 2.6 million acres in the U.S. National Park System. In response to the degradation of native natural ecosystems service-wide caused by invasive exotic plants, the U.S. National Park Service has established nine tactical Exotic Plant Management Teams. Modeled after the approach used in wildland firefighting, the teams provide highly trained, mobile strike forces of plant management specialists to assist parks in the control of invasive exotic plants. Under the administrative and financial assistance of the Florida Partnership Team (created in 2000), the Caribbean team has been formulated this year. Work is coordinated through a liaison and contracted companies provide the labor for control.

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