Monday, October 20, 2008

Student maps invasive weeds on campus

Jessica Guritz, pictured at right, studied weeds on the UAF campus

After spending the summer of 2008 mapping weeds on the UAF campus, senior forestry student Jessica Guritz has helped lay the groundwork for invasive plant management and future monitoring. “It will be important to take action quickly and efficiently, before invasive plants succeed in completely taking over the campus,” Guritz stated.

Guritz worked as a seasonal integrated pest management technician for the Cooperative Extension Service with the purpose of creating a map of key invasive plants on the UAF campus. The project was funded through a USDA Forest Service grant. The maps and data resulting from this project are the first step toward creating a campus invasive plant management plan. The community of Fairbanks, as well as agencies such as the US Forest Service, Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Cooperative Extension Service, are witnessing a growing need for the strategic management of invasive plants. Several invasive plants have been expanding their range at an almost exponential rate and action is needed to save native plant communities, gardens, and roadsides. Before strategic actions can be taken, people must know the locations and numbers of invasive plants within a management area.

The goals of this project were to:
•Create a map, or series of maps, to show the locations and densities of key invasive plants on the UAF campus in a way that is easy to interpret and understand.
•Collect other data such as disturbance type, vegetation classification, and phenology to provide a more comprehensive picture of invasion ecology in interior Alaska.
•Produce a final report summarizing the results of the project and recommendations for controlling invasive and exotic plants on campus.
A team of scientists was consulted to come up with a list of plant species to be mapped based on the plants’ ability to survive the winter, their invasiveness ranking, and whether they would be expected to occur in Fairbanks. The scientists included Jeff Conn of the Agricultural Research Service, Michele Hebert of the Cooperative Extension Service, and Tricia Wrutz of the USDA Forest Service.

Fourteen plant species were selected to be mapped on the campus: annual hawksbeard (Crepis tectorum), bird vetch (Vicia cracca), black bindweed (Polygonum convolvulus), Brittlestem hempnettle (Galeopsis tetrahit), butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris), Canada thistle (Cirisium arvense), common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), European bird cherry (Prunus padus), oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), perennial sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis), Siberian pea (Caragana arborescens), tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobea), white sweetclover (Melilotus alba), yellow alfalfa (Medicago sativa falcata).

Almost all of the disturbed soils on campus were surveyed for invasive plants. Several areas were avoided due to construction or other barriers. Survey methods involved walking back and forth across a given survey area until the entire area had been visually inspected. Data was taken using a variation of the AKEPIC Field Data Sheet.

Eleven out of the 14 plant species surveyed for were found. The three species not found were Canada thistle, common tansy, and tansy ragwort. 461 polygons were mapped.

Guritz recommends these priorities for volunteer efforts:
• Removing the bird vetch along the UAF trail system
• Working toward eradication of perennial sow thistle, black bindweed, brittlestem hemp nettle, and yellow toadflax
Priorities for landscaping, maintenance, and construction crews include:
• Using weed-free soil, fill, and other materials
• Cleaning equipment to prevent the transfer of invasive plant seeds
• Where soils are disturbed, re-vegetate with native plants
• Control the invasive plants around the Physical Plant
Further reading:
Surveying and Mapping of 14 Invasive and Exotic Plants on the UAF Campus (pdf), by Jessica Guritz
Non-native plant literature and websites
Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plants Management website
• Alaska Association of Conservation Districts invasive plants website

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