Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Invasive Plant Management Conundrum
July 3, 2014 by | No Comments

The natural world is and will always be full of change.When change is "natural," most often it has desirable outcomes deemed acceptable to land managers…

The natural world is and will always be full of change.

When change is “natural,” most often it has desirable outcomes deemed acceptable to land managers and conservationists.

Unfortunately, most changes in our natural areas have been the result of human actions. Variously known as alien, invasive and non-native, many plant/animal species have been introduced, intentionally or unintentionally, into areas outside their natural range.

When these foreign species are suddenly introduced into a new part of the world, where there are often no natural controls, they rapidly multiply, invade and “change” areas at the expense of native species.

Geauga Park District’s mission is to conserve, preserve and protect Geauga County’s natural resources and allow its citizens to enjoy them. GPD manages well over 9,000 acres of this beautiful county. That is a serious responsibility and obligation to Geauga’s citizens to maintain and insure that Ohio’s natural heritage continues in as natural a state as possible for future generations to appreciate.

This is the key challenge: How do we, stewards of the land, keep areas as natural as possible against such seemingly overwhelming odds and the constant bombardment of alien/invasive species?

Like nature itself, managing invasive plants is a complex task and takes a multitude of approaches.

1. Prevention: Foremost is to prevent introductions in the first place; avoid non-native invasive species in landscaping, roadway projects, etc.

2. Education & Prioritization: Every citizen is responsible for understanding the economic, cultural and biological harm invasive species pose to natural areas.

Educate yourself on what particular alien plants are invasive in your area and monitor your properties to catch early invasions Share this information with other land owners to cooperatively work on prevention and controls. Volunteer for a local conservation organization to help monitor and control invasive plants.

3. Action: Unfortunately, when invasions happen there are few practical options for managing these problem plants.

Mechanical control (hand pulling, mowing, etc.). Only works with certain species, is cheap but extremely time/labor intensive, and may often cause soil disturbance which may lead to new alien seed germination.

Biological control. Most often non-native insects, bacteria or fungi imported from the alien plant’s homeland. Many federal agencies are researching these options, but choices are limited.

Chemical control. Using herbicides is often the only practical means of managing large areas of invasive plant problems. Herbicides are more effective because they can be applied with fewer disturbances to soils and surrounding vegetation than mechanical control.

With limited time/resources, herbicides are often the only real solution to terrible infestations.

In a perfect world, natural area managers would never need the assistance of herbicides to treat noxious weed problems . . . these problems would not exist in the first place. But because the natural world is forever changed and compromised, we are committed to facing the multitude of challenges in the safest, most effective means possible.

Pira is director of natural resource management/biologist for Geauga Park District

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