Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:46:00 CDT — by: Parker Haynes, C’14; Will Noggle, C’14 and Shannon Jones, C’14
During our final semester at Sewanee, we wanted to give back to the Domain. We used our Ecology and Biodiversity capstone course to survey invasive plants in Sewanee and raise awareness of the threat these plants pose to the health and longevity of our forests.
Without their natural enemies (herbivores, diseases, etc.) to keep them in check, alien invasive plants can outcompete and displace native plants, compromising the diversity and integrity of the native ecosystem. To help limit the ecological impact of invasive species on the Domain, we wanted to provide information that could be used to improve the efficiency of the University’s management efforts. With the help of Nate Wilson (Domain Manager) and Dr. Christopher Van de Ven (GIS instructor and manager of the Landscape Analysis Laboratory), we mapped the distribution and abundance of invasive plants along the Perimeter Trail, and used this data to create an open-source GIS database.
We chose to map the Perimeter Trail first because it encompasses a large portion of the Domain, including areas of particularly high ecological interest, such as Shakerag Hollow. In addition, the Perimeter Trail itself is, though on a somewhat small scale, the type of forest disturbance that invites colonization by nonnative plant species. Future surveys should be focused on other Domain trails, roads, powerline cuts, former homesteads, former quarries, and along the edges of developed land, as these areas allow invasive plants to establish themselves more easily.
We now have a map, titled “Invasive Plants and their Densities on Sewanee Perimeter Trail” that can be viewed by anyone interested, and updated by anyone with access to ArcGIS software. We have been able to identify high priority management areas, but there is much work to be done. Our hope is that students, staff and faculty will add more data to this map to make it as comprehensive and useful as possible. Any treatments, such as herbicide or manual removal, that are applied to a site of ‘infestation’ can be included within an individual GPS point. Over time, continued mapping and updating of treatment history would be invaluable to management planning, as we can determine the most aggressive species and the most effective treatments in Sewanee.
This past spring, to raise awareness about the issue of nonnative plants, we advertised free English Ivy removal in the Sewanee Mountain Messenger. Though we were only able to respond to some of the demand we received, we offered guidance on how to do it yourself. To this end, we also prepared a how-to English Ivy removal pamphlet for the Sewanee Community Council, which is available upon request. Teaming up with the Sewanee Herbarium, we helped sponsor the annual Garlic Mustard pull, which was held at Morgan’s Steep.
We have also made a field guide, titled Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests, readily available to anyone with interest, by contacting Prof. Deborah McGrath or the Sewanee Herbarium. It can also be easily accessed online by searching for it by title. While we hope the map will be a powerful tool, particularly for the Office of Domain Management, no action is too small. Everyone is encouraged to learn to identify and pull invasive species on their walks, plant native species in their yards, voice their concern with nurseries where invasive plants are sold, or simply mention this issue to a friend!