A Partnership in Invasive Species Action

USACE Jacksonville District
Published Feb. 22, 2023

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District has a team dedicated to combating invasive species throughout the state. The passion behind their mission is so strong that it crosses generations. During National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW), February 20-26, 2023, USACE, along with its state and federal partners, would like Floridians to help slow the spread of invasive species affecting our state’s natural resources and economy.

USACE biologist Jessica Spencer and Retired USACE biologist Bev Lawrence have a few things in common, but their drive to educate Floridians on slowing the spread of invasive species has them collaborating with their partners and the First Coast community.

“Our job is to make our public “AWARE” of why it is important to avoid (& remove) invasive plants in their landscapes,” said Spencer, “each year, we use National Invasive Species Awareness to spotlight particular plants and encourage action by our neighbors, friends and family in combatting the dangers of invasive species.” 

Invasive species cause significant economic and social impacts on agriculture, public infrastructure, private property values, and our wild and natural Florida ecosystem; a 2021 study estimated that invasive species had cost North America $2 billion dollars per year in the early 1960s to over $26 billion dollars yearly since 2010 (Crystal-Ornela, R. et al. 2021). 

Spencer strongly emphasizes that “Invasive species are the 2nd greatest menace to threatened and endangered species, second only to habitat destruction.”

According to an article in Science Direct, “There are approximately 50,000 invasive species, and the number is increasing. The article also discloses that 42% of the threatened and endangered species are at risk because of invasive species and their impacts.” (David Pimental, ScienceDirect. 2005).” Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States - ScienceDirect

Lawrence says, “This year, we really want to focus on kalanchoe (Mother of Millions), asparagus ferns and beach vitex. These plants are impacting our sea dunes, crowd out native plants such as sea oats, and impact habitat that many species of wildlife rely on.” These three plants are category one invasives that disrupt native plant communities by displacing native species and harming our dunes. The dunes are essential to wildlife conservation and provide natural coastal protection against storm surges, high waves and coastal flooding.

The two biologists met 15 years ago at the Jacksonville District office and reconnected after Lawrence retired. She volunteers with Kathy Russell, conservation, and environmental manager for the City of Fernandina Beach. The team is comprised of retirees working to remove invasive plants on the greenways and the beach twice a month.  

The City of Fernandina is part of the First Coast Invasives Working Group (FCIWG). Spencer partners with the group in her USACE capacity and volunteers her time to various initiatives throughout Florida. The group is a partnership in action, working to address invasive prevention, early detection, and education. 

USACE and its partners at FCIWG would like you to plant native and beware of invasive plants hiding in plain sight in your backyards, local stores and your community.

To learn more, visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/InvasiveSpecies, and to get involved with your local Weed Wrangles, contact https://www.floridainvasives.org/ 

To learn more about USACE’s Jacksonville Districts Invasive Species Management Branch https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/InvasiveSpecies

Brigida I. Sanchez
701 San Marco Blvd

Release no. 23-011