Partnership Takes on Invasive Honeysuckle – Success
Environmental stewardship is a pillar of The Nature Institute’s mission. The Olin Nature Preserve, part of the institute, is a mosaic of habitats, including upland forest-savanna, and unfortunately is home to invasive species as well. On Nov. 15, the preserve was the recipient of extra attention and community service to combat non-native plants.
“I’m excited to announce that we participated in the Fall 2019 Honeysuckle Sweep Initiative organized by the Missouri Botanical Garden,” TNI Stewardship Director Eric Wright said. “This was our fourth time participating in the initiative and results continue to grow when measured by numbers of volunteers, hours worked, and acres cleared. With the help of some great local groups and volunteers, I expected to see amazing results and I was not disappointed. We had 58 participants and cleared 3.5 acres.”
Volunteers from Missouri Botanical Garden, Lewis and Clark Restoration Ecology Program, NGRREC Habitat Strike Team, YouthBuild-AmeriCorps, Alton High School field ecology class, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and community members participated in the honeysuckle sweep.
Allison Brown, restoration outreach coordinator for Missouri Botanical Garden, described the initiative as “an effort to energize the greater St. Louis region around improving habitat for our native plants and animals, and BiodiverseCity St. Louis Network partners join together to spotlight the harmful impact bush honeysuckle can have on our natural areas. Since the campaign began in 2016, organizations have held over 130 events, bringing over 2,500 volunteers to clear over 100 acres of land.”
Invasive species are destructive to native ecosystems and a top priority of land management at the institute.
“Amur honeysuckle forms a dominant, constrictive shrub layer in our forest habitats that decreases biodiversity and reduces habitat function,” said J. Scott Moss, assistant professor and coordinator of restoration ecology at Lewis and Clark Community College. “It creates dense conditions, reduces light on the forest floor, and prevents native trees and woodland wildflowers that our local wildlife depend on to maintain stable populations. As a general rule, removing it is an initial step in any good management initiative for our local forests.”
National Great Rivers Research and Education Center is home to the Habitat Strike Team, a group trained in ecosystem restoration that helped TNI. A recent Illinois Department of Natural Resources Habitat Fund award gave the team an opportunity to form new partnerships.
“The NGRREC Habitat Strike Team is excited to form a closer relationship with The Nature Institute and assist them during their honeysuckle sweep events and additional restoration efforts,” said Justin Shew, conservation program manager at the research center.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to partner with The Nature Institute; we hope to continue to assist TNI with these amazing restoration events that also engage the local community,” said Cody Berry, the strike team’s habitat project coordinator.
Also joining in the sweep were Lewis and Clark Community College YouthBuild-AmeriCorps members, ages 16-24, who perform 450 service hours each year.
“We have been working on projects with TNI for the last four to five years, and we sincerely value relationships with organizations that care about education and the environment,” said Sabrina Davis, director of adult education at L&C.
During the school year, AHS field ecology teacher Dan Pettus often brings his classes to the institute to learn and explore.
“Alton High School’s field ecology course gives senior students an opportunity to learn about local ecosystems including streams, prairies, and forest communities,” Pettus said. “Invasive species are threatening the biodiversity of these habitats and the ability to identify and remove them is a valuable skill for work in ecological fields. Getting students involved in the identification and removal of honeysuckle from The Nature Institute’s property gives them a chance to truly understand the issue and be ambassadors for educating others.”
The assistance of local organizations to remove invasive species helps the institute maintain and restore the private nature preserve that serves as an outdoor community classroom to appreciate the natural world.
– by Rebecca Steiner
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For a link to the press release, please visit the Advantage News