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Risk assessment of potential invasiveness of exotic reptiles imported to south Florida

Abstract

The recent explosion of exotic reptiles in south Florida requires effective management strategies. The objective of this study is to bring knowledge of ecological correlates and quantitative modeling methods into management by providing the foundation for a screening procedure that will identify potentially invasive species and assess adverse impacts associated with these species. We considered 17 variables and, based on model selection procedures, we identified the following significant predictors of establishment success: taxonomic order, maximum temperature match between a species’ native range and Florida, animal sale price, and manageability (defined as a species’ maintenance cost, aggressiveness, proneness to escape, and venomousness). Applying the models to predict establishment success of 33 reptiles that were most frequently imported through Miami and St. Petersburg ports from 2000 to 2005 and two additional reptiles of concern in Florida, we identified eight lizards and four snakes as potentially successful invaders. We further assessed adverse impacts associated with potential invaders, should they become established, by identifying species that are (1) dangerous to humans, (2) dangerous to the ecosystem (upper trophic-level predators), and (3) rapidly spreading. Controlling exotic reptiles can be expensive and labor intensive once they are established. Information on which species are potential invaders based on screening procedures and what impacts these species might cause will be a valuable contribution to the development of proactive management strategies.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Geological Survey Priority Ecosystem Science Program. We acknowledge Kenneth Dodd, Kenneth Krysko, Kevin Enge, Mac Kobza, and Michael Cherkiss for their professional advice, Robert Reed and Gordon Rodda for insightful reviews, Amanda Rice, Hardin Waddle, Laura Brandt, Nicola Hughes, Pam Fuller, and Wellington Guzman for their assistance with data collection, and Rebecca Harvey and Jen Frost for editorial help. We also appreciate the comments provided by Editor-in-Chief Dan Simberloff and an anonymous reviewer, which helped to clarify and contextualize the manuscript. The use of trade names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

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Correspondence to Ikuko Fujisaki.

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Fujisaki, I., Hart, K.M., Mazzotti, F.J. et al. Risk assessment of potential invasiveness of exotic reptiles imported to south Florida. Biol Invasions 12, 2585–2596 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-009-9667-1

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Keywords

  • Climate match
  • Establishment
  • Exotic species
  • Prediction