January 18, 2010
Along with other invasive species that cause multi-million dollar destructions, the water hyacinths’ presence does immense damage to waterways. The water hyacinth (Eichhornia azurea) is an invasive aquatic plant that is found in the southeastern United States, as well as in California, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. This plant is found in tropical areas and it was brought into The United States from Central and South America. It is characterized by floating, round, green leaves that can grow up to 10 inches and has budding purple flowers. It usually found in large groups intertwined with each other.
The problems with water hyacinths are that they are highly susceptible to clogging waterways such as rivers, streams, and other bodies of water due to the fact that the population of the water hyacinth can double in six days. This is detrimental for water activities such as fishing, water sports, and transporting goods by boats. Also, the water hyacinth significantly decreases the flow of water and this causes an increase of bacteria that causes infestation. Another problem with water hyacinths is that they block sunlight. This reduces the production of photosynthesis of the plants that live under the surface of the body of water, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. This is dangerous because it can potentially harm animals such as fish and other aquatic species. The water hyacinth also provides habitats for some parasites such as mosquitoes and flatworms. These insects can potentially spread diseases such as West Nile Virus. In terms of the economic standpoint, especially in Florida, millions of dollars are spent each year in order to keep the population of water hyacinths under control. Some of the management consists of harvesting and slicing the plant. Another way, to control the population is to use herbicides however, this can be relatively expensive. There are also biological ways to stop the growth of the water hyacinth such as introducing the water hyacinth weevil and moth that eat the plant.
This is very detrimental to the recreational department in Florida. With water hyacinths’ potential of completely covering the surfaces of bodies of water, they prevent water activities such as SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Because of this, it can reduce the monetary gain of fishing licenses, as well as money made by touring these rivers, such as the St. Johns River. Another thing to consider is that if the weevils and moths are introduced, what they would consume if all of the water hyacinths are depleted. Will they damage native species, or will they die out and not be considered a problem? What we need to do is find out the ways that people prevent the spread of the water hyacinth.