You may hear a lot about the need to remove invasive species from your property, from public lands, from city parks- anywhere they may be growing, but why? If they are growing well and serve some sort of purpose, from hedging to pretty fall foliage, why exert massive amounts of time and energy to rid them from the landscape? Why is FOB working so hard this fall to remove invasive species from the Blackwater Rail Trail?
There are several reasons why invasive species, particularly invasive plant species, wreak havoc on an otherwise healthy environment.
- Water Quality Degradation: When invasive species like bearded clematis are the predominate ground cover, there is very little root structure to stabilize the soils, so erosion happens at a much faster rate. Large areas dominated by invasive species are much more prone to flooding and eroding massive amounts of soil into the water than areas rich in native species with deep root systems. Sediment reduces water quality by coating the rocks in fine dirt, smothering the macro invertebrates that live on the stream bottoms and negatively impacting the whole aquatic food web. Invasive species also provide less stream cover and shade, increasing the water temperature which can be detrimental for sensitive species like brook trout.
- Biodiversity Loss: Invasive plant species is a primary cause of native biodiversity loss. One reason that some invasive species were introduced was because of their fast growth and ability to spread anywhere, like autumn olive and multiflora rose. They displace native plants, out compete for precious resources, and can quickly create mono-cultures. Invasive plants reduce the quality of the habitat and limit the quality and quantify of fish and wildlife habitat for native animals to live and reproduce in.
- Habitat Loss: When native habitats like grasslands, wetlands, old growth forests, and more are over run by invasive species, the wildlife is displaced. Invasive plants can prohibit endangered and threatened fish and wildlife from making a comeback. In some cases, the mono-cultures of invasive species can provide habitat for invasive wildlife species that prey on or compete with native wildlife for resources. Dense invasive plant populations also reduces the amount of tree cover by preventing tree establishment, killing them by smothering them (google “kudzu forest”!), or reducing their success. Garlic mustard, an invasive found widely in the Allegheny Highlands, reduces soil fungi that many tree seeds need to germinate.
- Fire Risk and High Cost: Mono-cultures of any kind, particularly invasive plants, can quickly become fuel for wildfires. Climbing invasive vines like kudzu or clematis can allow fire to reach the tree canopy where it can become much more dangerous for humans and wildlife. Not only are these deadly events, but they are also costly to manage. Invasive species present expensive problems for land managers, farmers, and other groups that are often reflected in food prices and limited access to public lands.
The best management tool is to prevent and control these invasive species. Manual removal, careful herbicide application, and supporting robust native plant populations. FOB’s botanical restoration project along the Blackwater Rail Trail and the North Fork of the Blackwater River is removing many of the worst invasive species present on the Monongahela National Forest, including autumn olive, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, and several more, with the help of some awesome volunteers. We’ll be planting native species in the spring to help improve biodiversity and encourage healthy wildlife populations and water quality!
Join us on September 30th, October 3rd, 7th, 21st, 24th, 28th, or November 4th from 9 am- 12 pm at 571 Douglas Rd Thomas, WV 26292 to help with this invasive species management project and help protect the native plants and wildlife found in the Blackwater Canyon! Learn more about the restoration project here.