Behrend students, faculty to lead fight against invasive species in Wintergreen Gorge

With funding from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pennsylvania Sea Grant and Behrend are working to develop a weed  management plan that brings students and community members together to remove invasive species.

By Anna McCartney

Communications and Education Specialist at  Pennsylvania Sea Grant, an outreach program of Penn State Behrend  

Wintergreen Gorge along Fourmile Creek is a popular destination for hikers, birders, fossil-hunters and others who simply use the stream to cool off on a hot day.

Because it’s also a favorite of Penn State Behrend students, they are involved in creating a weed management and implementation plan to develop best management practices that protect the Gorge from invasive species.

With funding from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), and help from Pennsylvania Sea Grant (PASG) and Behrend faculty, they are working to develop a Weed Warrior program that brings students and community members together to remove invasive species that are found there.

IMG_3440 PSU PASG Weed Warriors wintergreen gorge R

Students will also help develop a Best Practices Guide that can be used by other universities and communities to control invasive species on their campus or other natural areas.  

In May and June, students will learn to identify target invasive plant populations and use GPS equipment to inventory and track them on a baseline work map so they can prioritize future removal efforts. The data they collect will be added to existing information provided by the WPC about rare, threatened or endangered plant species so the plan will protect these assets while eliminating the harmful plants.

The management plan will require students to conduct research and determine immediate priorities and the best course of action to combat invasive species within the identified areas. Based upon the site conditions, students will also need to consider how to reintroduce native species once the invasives are removed.

Marti Martz, PASG senior outreach and project facilitator, anticipates that engaging Penn State students and community members in this effort will provide several benefits. “There will be more ‘boots on the ground’ to help with removal and more opportunities to discuss impacts of invasives on native plants and the insects and animals that rely on these natives. Once people understand how invasive species degrade a habitat, they will be more vigilant about what they bring into their own yards,” she said.

Sea Grant will also work with Ann Quinn, director of Greener Behrend, and the students to develop a Best Practices Guide that can be used by other universities or communities that want to control invasive species on their campus or other natural areas.

IMG_3463

Tom Cermak, Pennsylvania Sea Grant coastal outreach specialist, helps Behrend students remove invasive bush honeysuckle from Wintergreen Gorge.

“This project not only provides valuable, hands on experiences for students, but it also protects and enhances the ecological integrity of a wonderful community asset,” said Tom Cermak, PASG coastal outreach specialist who is working with students to identify, track and remove invasives.

“We at Behrend are very excited to work with Sea Grant to eliminate invasive plant populations throughout Wintergreen Gorge. As these aggressive species are removed, they will be replaced with native plant communities, which will increase biodiversity and help keep the Wintergreen Gorge Ecosystem in balance, ” said Quinn.

You can help maintain the beauty of this popular hiking and biking trail by volunteering to remove plants at planned workdays this summer. Contact Ann Quinn at 898-6993 or abq1@psu.edu.

nps.gov bush honeysuckle1D0EC7E8-155D-451F-678FFC8BDF8B607F-large

Bush honeysuckle is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 15 feet. This aggressive invader displaces many native plants, including wildflowers and dogwoods.

multiflora rose Penn State

Multiflora rose (above) steals space, nutrients, water, and sunlight from native plants and trees.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s