Summer is a busy time of year for road construction. Roadways are lined with flaggers, safety cones and signs. Maybe you noticed a different kind of roadside sign this summer that reads, "Invasive Species Management Crew Ahead." Rather than alerting drivers to construction activity, this sign signals that the Adirondack Terrestrial Regional Response Team is hard at work. The Team manages problematic invasive plants to protect water quality and wetland, river and forest habitats.
The Response Team is a four-member seasonal crew now in its third -?and final - year in the park. Thanks to private foundation funding, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program launched this critical approach in 2011. The Team is demonstrating that increased seasonal capacity is not only holding the line of invasion but also reducing the threat. They controlled more than 300 infestations of common reed grass, Japanese knotweed, swallow-wort vine, purple loosestrife and other invasive plants plaguing important natural areas across the region.
While protecting public lands from the worst invasives is the primary goal, much of the management efforts are concentrated along roadsides. Most invasive plant infestations start in areas of disturbance, such as roadsides or other public use areas like trailheads and parking areas. By targeting these locations, the aim is to eliminate infestations before they spread.
The Adirondack Terrestrial Regional Response Team is a four person crew supervised by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program that manages problematic invasive plants across the region.
(Photo — Invasive Plant Control Inc.)
The control work is timed to occur when it is most likely to successfully kill the target plants. The field season generally runs from mid-May to mid-September. Garlic mustard and yellow iris management kicks off the season, followed by swallow-wort and loosestrife, and finally, knotweed and common reed close out the season. The team uses best management practices, which varies by species and often requires a combination of hand-pulling, digging and targeted applications of herbicide.
With guidance from APIPP's Terrestrial Coordinator, the Team maps and monitors every site it treats to track trends over time. Preliminary results are encouraging and indicate that sustaining treatments year after year is a winning strategy. The average size of an infestation in the interior two-thirds of the park is less than 0.08 acres, or smaller than the size of a high-school basketball court. Most infestations are even smaller at 0.001 acres. The small size contributes to the Team's early success: many sites are showing little to no invasive plant regrowth after only two seasons of control, and native plants are recovering.
"Bad plants, bad plants, what are you going to do? What are you going to do when they come for you?" For the last three years, the Adirondack Terrestrial Regional Response Team has helped to hold these "bad plants" at bay; however, the project period to pilot the response team approach in the park is coming to a close at the end of this field season. With the winning prescription within our grasp, control efforts cannot stop now. APIPP and partners are working to secure funds to continue this ground-breaking work into the future. To get involved, contact APIPP at 518-576-2082.
Eye on Invasives is a seasonal biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. Hilary Smith directs the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Find out more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.