Sunday, June 20, 2010

Invasive Species Pull

Wherever you live within the territory of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society invasive species are present -- be it the stands of Japanese barberry scattered throughout West Hills County Park, the Asian shore crabs found during a stroll along Long Island Sound, the abundant thickets of autumn olive at Stillwell Woods, or the smothering tangle of porcelainberry vines choking native plants at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

Definitionally, invasive species are species that are not native to the natural communities (forests, fields, wetlands, shorelines, etc.) they have colonized and are having significant adverse ecological effects on these communities by outcompeting the native species found within them. Invasives have several advantages over native species that allow them to outcompete the natives: 1) they typically reproduce prolifically by setting seeds early and producing lots of them; 2) they prosper in a wide set of environmental conditions; 3) some produce poisons (allelopathy) that kill other plants; 4) they can modify the environment in ways that encourages further invasives; and 5) they lack the normal suite of predators, parasites, and pathogens that can keep them in check since they didn’t evolve within these communities. Most of the focus on invasive species has been on invasive plants.

One place where HOBAS has been working to control invasive species is at Shu Swamp in Mill Neck. This 65-acre preserve, owned and managed by the North Shore Sanctuaries (NSS), Inc. is well known, among other things, for its spring ephemeral wildflowers. These are species such as yellow trout lily, dwarf ginseng, red trillium, carolina spring beauty and others that bloom in early spring before the leaf-out of trees (taking advantage of unfettered sunlight) and then die back so by mid-summer they are no longer in evidence, hence their name. At Shu Swamp these species are threatened by garlic mustard and english ivy, two species that will likely reduce if not eliminate the spring ephemerals if left unchecked due to their rampant growth.

Out of concern for these beautiful native wildflowers HOBAS, on May 1st, joined with North Shore Sanctuaries and the North Shore Land Alliance for a “garlic mustard pull”. Volunteers walked around on the main trails of the preserve and pulled up all the garlic mustard they could find; much of the garlic mustard was growing amidst, or in close proximity to, the spring ephemerals. The May 1st date was picked on purpose as the plants are large enough to be easily pulled yet before the plants have had a chance to set and disperse seeds. We put the pulled plants into black plastic bags to ensure they would die; the bags were taken by NSS staff to dispose of. As for the english ivy, we cut down a number of vines that were growing up into the taller trees near the stream, threatening to choke them out.

HOBAS will continue to sponsor invasive species control projects, both at Shu Swamp and other parks and preserves, so stay alert for announcements of such activities in future newsletters, on the website and Facebook page if you would like to help in the effort.

John Turner

note: On June 19th, HOBAS also participated in a water chestnut pull at Mill Pond in Oyster Bay. This was a fun day, sponsored by the USFWS and Friends of the Bay!

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