Invasive Species – AmeriCorps to the Rescue
By Charlie Frisk
GREEN BAY – For the first time ever, an AmeriCorps team has come to Green Bay to work on an environmental project with the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation.
AmeriCorps was established in 1993 by the administration of former President Bill Clinton and is a network of national, state, and local programs that connects more than 70,000 Americans to meet community needs for education, environment, public safety, health and homeland security.
Most AmeriCorps teams are made up of college-aged individuals.
The agency’s mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteerism.
From May 5 to June 21, an AmeriCorps team of seven volunteers worked on environmental issues in the Baird Creek Greenway.
Although the team worked on plantings, trails and a variety of other works, their primary focus was the removal of harmful invasive species.
Many ecologists rank invasive species second only to habitat loss as a cause of species extinction or extinction.
Some of the most damaging invasive species in the Green Bay area are plants.
Baird’s Creek Invasive Species
Much of the habitat restoration carried out in the Baird Creek Greenway by the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation involves the removal of invasive species, with the main culprits being Buckthorn, Eurasian Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard and Phragmites .
Buckthorn exemplifies the problems that invasive species can cause – in effect altering soil chemistry for its own benefit and that of non-native earthworms (which cause their own set of problems in northern forests) and preventing native plants to occupy this area.
Nothing eats buckthorn – deer and other browsers, as well as insects, never touch it.
Birds eat buckthorn berries, but the outer skin of the berry contains an irritating toxin that causes birds to regurgitate the berries along with all the other food in their crops.
This provides both transport and fertilizer for the seeds.
And buckthorn is damn hard to kill.
Cutting him just angers him, and he responds by sending out dozens of suckers.
In order to kill buckthorn, the cut stem must be brushed with a strong herbicide, such as glyphosate, which many environmental groups are reluctant to do.
So in summary, buckthorn can turn a healthy forest into a biological wasteland because nothing eats it, it displaces desirable native species, blocks the sun from reaching natives on the forest floor, and is very difficult to kill. .
Insects and parasites
Although introduced plants can harm native communities in many ways, they all have one common problem: they leave behind their insects and pests when introduced to another part of the world.
It’s a double-edged sword.
Without insects to feed on and parasites to steal nutrients and cause disease, they reproduce completely out of control.
Because they do not support any insects in their new environment, they disrupt the flow of energy through the biological community.
Typically, plants are the first step in the food chain, insects being the second.
Many fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals then feed on the insects.
Without insects, the first step in the food chain ends up being the last.
Doug Tallamy, a professor in the Department of Wildlife Entomology and Ecology at the University of Delaware, found that native oak trees are home to more than 500 species of insects, while ginkgo trees, an introduced species from Asia, do not harbor any insect species.
Many species of birds – chickadees are a prime example – rely almost entirely on protein-rich, high-fat caterpillars to feed their developing young.
Tallamy’s research showed that yards dominated by invasive plants produced 75% less caterpillar biomass than predominantly native landscapes and were 60% less likely to have breeding chickadees.
The AmeriCorps Team
The AmeriCorps team was made up of young adults from across the country, some from Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Virginia and more.
While the work they did may seem difficult to many people – hot, irritating and irritating – the volunteers said they came away with very positive feelings from their work.
Some of their thoughts on the program included wanting to experience places like Baird Creek sooner, enjoying using saws to cut buckthorn, and being able to watch everything leaf and bloom.
Emily Schieferdecker of Missouri said she enjoyed “the bonds we’ve made along the way, learning to talk to people, coming out of my shell.”
“Thanks to AmeriCorps, I went from introverted to extroverted,” she said.
Caddo Turney from New Mexico said he enjoyed “the wide variety of work experiences and stepping out of my comfort zone.”
While in Green Bay, the AmeriCorps team made a big difference to the buckthorn population in the Baird Creek Greenway.
Having a concentrated effort of a team of seven people and two interns for six weeks on an invasive species project means a lot of progress in less time.
If you are hiking along the paved path in the greenway soon, look for the piles of cut buckthorn along the paved path.
If you work with a local nonprofit and need motivated, hardworking volunteers, you should consider whether your organization would qualify for an AmeriCorps team.
If you’re a young person wanting hands-on work experience, valuable networking opportunities, and professional training, a position on an AmeriCorps team might be just what you’re looking for.
In fact, AmeriCorps also offers a program for seniors at retirement age.
More information can be found at americorps.gov.