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Wildlife corridors sometimes help invasive species spread, UF research finds
Date:8/6/2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. When the ants come marching in, having miles of linked habitats may not be such a good idea after all.

In a classic example of the law of unintended consequences, new University of Florida research suggests that wildlife corridors strips of natural land created to reconnect habitats separated by agriculture or human activities -- can sometimes encourage the spread of invasive species such as one type of fire ant.

The findings are particularly important in Florida, where invasive species are a vexing problem. The Sunshine State plays host to animals such as Cuban tree frogs, green iguanas and feral hogs. In 2013, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission even sponsored a Burmese python hunting challenge.

The discovery also comes as a team of explorers prepares to embark this fall on its second 1,000-mile expedition to raise support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The organization's goal is to create a corridor stretching from Everglades National Park to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.

Could corridors be used by invasive species to spread across conservation lands? Sometimes, according to research by Julian Resasco, who led a study of red imported fire ants while he was a doctoral student in biology at UF. Resasco and his colleagues found that one type of fire ant used wildlife corridors to dominate recently created landscapes. Resasco's paper is published in the August issue of Ecology.

"Although habitat corridors are usually beneficial, they occasionally have negative effects," he said. "Sometimes they can help invasive species spread in exactly the same way they help native species."

The challenge for ecologists is to figure out when invasive species are likely to benefit from corridors. Resasco's results initially surprised the researchers because invasive species are usually talented in their ability to invade new areas -- they shouldn't n
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Contact: Julian Resasco
jresasco@colorado.edu
352-222-5917
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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