Andrew Nix, Forest Management Specialist
Mankind has been transporting and introducing non-native species of plants over long periods of time. Many of these introductions were attempts to introduce new food species for human consumption or forage species for domesticated livestock. Some of these non-native species have been beneficial in certain ways and are now called naturalized species. There is some argument as to which species are naturalized and which are invasive pests. Most of our improved varieties of cool season and warm season forage grass for cattle production are examples of species that agricultural professionals would call a naturalized species. There are some natural resource professionals that would say these forages are invasive. The species introduced that have not been beneficial to man are now being labeled as invasive plants and attempts are being made to deal with them.
We are at risk of losing our cultural heritage, recreational lands, and forest health, including many species of wildlife. These losses will occur through the ability of these invasive plant pests to alter the landscape. This altercation results in loss of suitable habitat for native wildlife species, which can be detrimental when dealing with species that are already on a decline. Even the plentiful herds of white-tailed deer and flocks of turkey could be negatively impacted if these species are not controlled or eradicated. Our beautiful forests, a great source of income and outdoor recreation in Alabama, are at risk of being seriously altered.
The Alabama Invasive Plant Council (ALIPC) was established to help combat the problem of the introduction and spread of invasive plants in our state. The ALIPC is a non-profit organization under the umbrella of the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council (SE-EPPC). The ALIPC objectives are to 1) provide a forum for all interested parties to participate and provide input on the problems and solutions, 2) raise awareness about the threat posed by invasive pest plants in Alabama, 3) facilitate communication and exchange of information on the threat and management of invasive pest plants, 4) initiate actions to prevent future introductions and the spread of invasive pest plants in Alabama and the Southeast, and 5) serve as an educational, advisory, and technical support council on all aspects of invasive plant issues.
The first step in being able to deal with an invasive plant infestation is the ability to identify an invasive plant species. Initial points of contact for help in identifying a pest plant are the county Extension agent, the district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the county Alabama Forestry Commission forester, or a wildlife biologist with the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Any of these personnel can help you with the identification process or guide you to the correct person/resources.
Resources abound in today’s world, from print media to the multitude of resources on the Internet. An excellent source of information is SRS-62, Nonnative Invasive Plants of the Southern Forests, A Guide for Identification and Control by Dr. James H. Miller. Copies of this publication can be requested via email at email@example.com, by phone at 828-257-4830, or by mail at Southern Research Station, P.O. Box 2680, Ashville, NC 28802. It can also be downloaded from the following websites:
The second step in dealing with invasive plants is determining the extent of the infestation and developing a plan for removing it. Is the infestation just a few small spots that may be easy to control, or does it cover significant acreage that will require more advanced treatment equipment and the help of professionals to control it? In dealing with control methods on invasive plants, herbicide treatments are often the most feasible means of control. Methods of control are covered thoroughly in the previously mentioned publication SRS-62.
The third step in dealing with invasive plant infestations is finding the financial means to combat these spots, and making your neighbors aware of the fact that if they have infestations on their property, all of you need to be treating these invasive plants. Nothing is more disheartening than successfully treating an infestation on your property, only to find in subsequent years that you get a reinfestation from your neighbors’ property. Using the greater purchasing power of buying in bulk for herbicides or contracting with vendors on control work is a great benefit of cooperating with your neighboring landowners. Some species of invasive plants will require multiple year treatments, and a monitoring process should be established to detect new plants that appear from seed or rootstocks.
The fourth step in dealing with these infestations is quickly establishing some type of native plants on the area after the invasive species has been removed. Sometimes there are native seeds and rootstocks available to reclaim the area and that will be readily visible. When areas have been under an invasive plant species for a long time period, it may be necessary to find a dealer of native plants/seeds and use direct planting or seeding to reclaim the area. Do not let the treated area remain with bare mineral soil, as this is an invitation to reinfestation. Again, a method for monitoring controlled spots should be implemented to clarify that you have adequate control, and identify spots that need additional treatment.
By doing your part and learning to identify these invasive species, there is less chance of you inadvertently moving plants or plant parts on equipment. The resources listed in this article will help you in the process of identification and will also educate you as to the methods of control. Search out the personnel listed above in your county or region and use their expertise to your advantage.
For more information, contact Drew Nix, Forest Management Specialist, at 64 N. Union Street, Room 584, Montgomery, AL, 36104, or at 334-242-3469.