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Tree Snails of Florida

The native tree snails of the genera Liguus and Orthalicus were once common and colorful inhabitants of tropical hardwood hammock forests throughout South Florida. However, the populations of both genera have declined dramatically during the 20th century. Population decline in tree snails is largely attributed to habitat loss and environmental degradation, overcollection, and, more recently, predation by invasive species. Predation by invasive species is the most pressing and least understood of the threats to tree snail conservation. Several invasive species of snail-eating land planarians are rapidly spreading across tropical regions.

The Project

Our scientists monitor the populations of both tree snails and their invasive predators to understand their interactions and the conservation needs of tree snails. In addition, we are collaborating with local stakeholders, from governmental to private landowners, to develop measures that directly protect tree snails from predation by invasive species - specifically, several invasive species of snail-eating land planarians that have rapidly spread across South Florida and other tropical regions, causing both snail population decline and extinction events.

The Impact

Florida's subtropical forests were once dripping with tree snails that National Geographic referred to as "living jewels." However, predation by invasive species, compounded by existing and historical pressures on tree snails, is continuing to accelerate the decline of tree snail populations and may lead to local extirpation. Through our intervention, we aim to preserve native snails' functional role in the nutrient cycle and foodweb of the local ecosystem and restore their status as iconic South Florida fauna.

For more information on this project, contact Cristina Gomes.