The post below was written by Graduate Student Kiel Edson. Kiel is in CONS 670, a Conservation Biology course referenced yesterday in a Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) professor profile.
Invasives in the Watershed
It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that doing an invasive plant survey during the fall can be challenging. During our group’s first visit to the Frederick Municipal Forest we found that the trails were blanketed with leaf litter and some of the species of interest were already starting to dwindle. Luckily, we’d made a class trip to the forest a few weeks beforehand and were able to enlist the help of the area’s Department of Natural Resources forester to point out the species that are most problematic and prolific throughout the trail network, so we knew what we were looking for.
The problem with these invasive species is that they often gain a foothold in disturbed areas (like trails) and can outcompete native species for scarce resources like soil nutrients, light and water. In order to keep the forest healthy, forest managers try to keep these vagabond species out. Knowing where they exist and what facilitates their spread is a very important first step.
Our study plan is fairly simple. We randomly select points along the trails in the watershed and lay a measuring tape at the trail’s edge and extend it deeper into the forest. Then we assess the number of and area covered by invasive species every 5 meters. The hypothesis is that the recreational trails are playing a role in spreading non-native species and, if we are right, we expect there to be more of these species closer to the trails and fewer as you move further into the virgin forest. For example, in photo 2 you see a very pretty grass-like species along the edge of the trail, this is Japanese stiltgrass and it doesn’t belong here.
We hope that our analysis and forthcoming management recommendations will give the City of Frederick a roadmap to eradicating these invasive plants, protecting their forest and ensuring the residents of the City have a healthy watershed that produces clean, reliable water for decades to come.
[This is part two of a two-part feature.]