Monday, May 6, 2013

Northeast Forests and Native Flora

Japanese barberry and Japanese stiltgrass
in central PA forest
 Came across this news release (see below) dated April 30, 2013 from the US Forest Service.  This one really hit home with me.  On Friday and Saturday I spent countless hours with a backpack sprayer on treating invasive shrubs (shrub honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, and multiflora rose), Japanese stiltgrass, mile-a-minute vine, and garlic mustard on my brother's property in western NY and on property I manage for the University in central PA.  I have to admit it was quite discouraging......especially since after applying more that 20 gallons of herbicide solution I really had only scratched the surface of approximately 200 acres.  The problem seems to be getting worse, not better.  The more management work we do to create habitat for wildlife, salvage timber dying from emerald ash borer and hemlock wooly adelgid (2 invasive exotic insects) the more the invasive plants seem to be able to take hold.

I have begun to accept the realization that these plants are here to stay and I have had to adjust my expectations.  No longer do I think they can be eradicated, in some cases I am not even sure they can be controlled.  You certainly have to pick your battles, draw a line in the sand so to speak.  My goal now has simply become trying to keep them from infesting new areas.  I have simply given up on some areas that are so severely overrun with invasives that I feel there is no way to get them under control without tremendous inputs of herbicide, hours of labor, and expense. 

On both properties we have recently performed timber sales, one to salvage dying hemlock (15 acres) and the other to perform a timber stand improvement project and create young forest habitat (20 acres).  I have set my goal on trying to ensure these newly harvested areas regenerate properly and do not get overrun with invasive plants......that is when I found the mile-a-minute vine.  I put down a pre-emergent herbicide but from conversations I have had with others this one may be a loosing battle, not good!

Invasive plants are here to stay and they are everywhere!  Read more about the Forest Service study results below.

New study is first to reveal abundance of nonnative plants across 24 states  
PORTLAND, Ore. April 30, 2013. Two-thirds of all forest inventory plots in the Northeast and Midwestern United States contain at least one non-native plant species, a new U.S. Forest Service study found. The study across two dozen states from North Dakota to Maine can help land managers pinpoint areas on the landscape where invasive plants might take root.

“We found two-thirds of more than 1,300 plots from our annual forest inventory had at least one introduced species, but this also means that one-third of the plots had no introduced species,” said Beth Schulz, a research ecologist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station who led the study, which is published in the current issue of the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. “By describing forest stands with few or no introduced species, we help managers focus on areas where early detection and rapid response can be most effective to slow the spread of introduced and potentially invasive plant species.”

Nonnative, or introduced, plants are those species growing in areas where they are not normally found. Whether they were intentionally released or escaped cultivation, nonnative plants ultimately can become invasive, displacing native species, degrading habitat, and altering critical ecosystem functions.

Schulz and her colleague Andrew Gray, a research forester at the station, analyzed data gathered by the Northern Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, which collects and reports statistics on the condition of forests in a 24-state region as part of its regular surveys. The data set, collected from 2001 to 2008, includes a sample of all trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, grasses, fern and fern-like plants conducted on a subset of the region’s FIA plots.

Among the study’s findings:
• There are 305 introduced plant species growing in the region’s forests, including some not currently found on regional monitoring lists;
• Multiflora rose (which was recorded on over one-quarter of all plots studied), Japanese honeysuckle, and garlic mustard are among the most prevalent nonnative species;
• The presence of nonnative species increases as the level of forest fragmentation increases; 
• Forests surveyed within the Eastern Broadleaf ecological province—which runs from the Atlantic coastal plains of Maine and New Hampshire to the southwest into Ohio and into the high hills and semi-mountainous areas of West Virginia—contain the greatest assortment of introduced plant species.

The study’s results can help focus research on individual species more widely distributed than previously thought or with yet-unexplored potential to become problematic.
Yasmeen Sands Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Forest Service

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