Where we work
Short reports of projects from around the world, that have an invasive species component. Gleaned from the "Worldview" entries of Nature Conservancy magazine, unless otherwise specified.
The Conservancy, Island Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to restore seabird habitat by removing rats from Alaska'a Aleutian Islands. Although some of the densest colonies of seabirds in North America are found in the islands, many colonies have been devastated by invasive Norway rats. A new project on Rat Island--named for the rodents that arrived by ship in the 1700s--has received permission from federal land managers to begin restoration activites in autumn 2008.
After teetering for years on the brink of extinction, the Santa Cruz Island fox has a hopeful future. This fall, 10 pups stepped out of a captive breeding facility and into the wild, the last of 85 pups produced through the program. Thanks to a 30-year Conservancy-led restoration effort, the foxes found native plants once again emerging from island hillsides that formerly had been stripped and churned by destructive feral pigs and sheep.
A private landowner donated to the Conservancy a 1,100 acre conservation easement on land adjacent to Fort Benning in the Chattahoochee Fall Line region. Under the voluntary easement, the land will never be developed. The restriction protects one of the region's largest populations of the endangered relict trillium, a perennial herb that flowers in early spring. The Conservancy is also working with the landowner to control feral hogs, which can uproot the plant.
The Conservancy and its partners recently completed an aerial survey on the island of Kauai, mapping weed occurrences across 15,000 acres of rugged high-elevation rain forest. The helicopter survey used global positioning systems and geographic information systems to map the Alakai Plateau, a mile-high wilderness that is home to many rare and endangered birds and plants. The survey was the first step in developing a weed-control strategy for the area.
Marine researchers have a new weapon, an underwater vacuum cleaner which can remove up to 800 pounds/hour of an invasive algae, which smothers and kill coral. The "Super Sucker" is deployed from a 25-foot barge operated by crew from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Hawaii, and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The tool is one component of a larger strategy to combat non-native algae invasions. The Conservancy and partners are also releasing native algae-eating urchins and planting native algae. Local farmers use algae from the Super Sucker as a fertilizer.
--2006, Autumn (edited for space).
Good news for Silver Creek's famous fishery: A cold mudsnail is a dead mudsnail. That's the conclusion reached by a recent study conducted on Silver Creek by the University of Idaho. The New Zealand mudsnail, a non-native species that has overtaken many Western rivers, dies when water temperatures go below freezing, as is the case at Silver Creek. The study will help managers better assess the threat of mudsnail infestations on other rivers and streams.
Indian Boundary Prairies, a collection of grasslands south of Chicago, is one of the Midwest's best examples of high-quality tallgrass prairie. It is an important sanctuary for a wealth of butterflies, birds, insects and native plants, but its small and isolated wetlands are exceptionally vulnerable to non-native invasive species. A recent $600,000 grant will help the Conservancy remove exotic plants and begin using fire to maintain these natural areas.
Restoration work is in full swing at the Conservancy's 361-acre Houghton Lake preserve in Marshall County. Invasive plant species such as reed canary grass are being removed to make way for native flora. Ultimately the groundwater flow and quality in the lake and surrounding wetlands will be improved and adjacent agricultural fields will be restored to native wetland and grassland communities.
This past spring, the Conservancy and Maryland's natural resources and agriculture agencies worked together to control the hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native insect that threatens forests throughout the Northeast. The partners treated 250 trees at the Conservancy's Licking Creek Preserve, using a grant from the state's Landowner Incentive Program. The treatment, which involves precise injections into the tree roots, is expected to kill the adelgids for the next three to five years without harming other organisms.
The Conservancy's Dorchester Pond Preserve on the Eastern Shore features one of Maryland's largest Delmarva bays. These seasonally flooded depressions are hotbeds for rare species, but invasive Japanese honeysuckle threatens many of them. In February, with help from the state Department of Natural Resources, the Conservancy conducted a prescribed burn at Dorchester Pond--the organization's first in Maryland in 10 years--to control the honeysuckle and stimulate the growth of native hardwoods and grasses.
At less than 5 inches long and with an abundance of mud in which to burrow, bog turtles can be elusive to the eye. However, after tracking the endangered creatures in the Berkshires for years, Conservancy staff and partners have documented that juvenile bog turtles are now showing up in record numbers. The turtle species' recovery is an indication that the Conservancy's ongoing restoration work, which includes removing invasive plants and using prescribed fire, is having the intended effect.
With the help of a grant from the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Conservancy is working with state and nonprofit partners to control cogongrass along the Pascagoula River. The invasive grass spreads its dense network of roots across sandbars, making it difficult for the endangered yellow-blotched sawback turtle to dig nests to lay its eggs. The eradication effort will focus on Conservancy preserves, the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area and surrounding private lands.
Five years ago, one of Montana's nastiest weeds, leafy spurge, formed a nearly solid mat covering some 200 acres at the Conservancy's Pine Butte Swamp Preserve. The invasive plant threatened to displace native vegetation important for wildlife. The Conservancy released spurge-munching flea beetles at the site and today the native grasses are coming back. There are enough beetles now to keep the spurge in check at Pine Butte and allow the Conservancy to collect and distribute some of the insects to other spurge-infested areas along the Rocky Mountain Front.
The Conservancy is working with partners on the Prairie Nebraska project to promote the production and use of local seed to restore Nebraska's prairies. Using seed from local prairies, including Conservancy preserves, prevents the spread of non-native species sometimes associated with seed mixes from other parts of the country. In central and eastern Nebraska, a number of restorations have been planted with mixes of more than 200 local prairie and wetland species, whose seeds were harvested largely by hand.
The Conservancy's efforts to remove invasive tamarisk along the Muddy River near Las Vegas appear to be improving habitat for breeding birds. Volunteers surveyed the river and discovered many bird species--including phainopeplas, Abert's towhees and lazuli buntings--breeding in the river corridor. Tamarisk poses great threats to the river and its banks, which are home to four native fish species, seven rare invertebrates and many rare birds.
While conservation challenges such as invasive species and fire suppression are widely acknowledged in Nevada, biological information that could inform priorities and strategies for restoring public lands has been largely missing. The Conservancy is pioneering two major advances in applied science to help build this knowledge base: satellite imagery to assess habitat conditions on remote basin and range landscapes, and advanced statistical models to interpret the satellite data.
By itself, removing threats such as livestock overgrazing and fire suppression will do little to protect eastern Nevada's vast sagebrush ocean. That was among the recently released findings of a three-year collaboration between Conservancy scientists and the Bureau of Land Management. A combination of threat removal and active restoration, including prescribed fire, will be required to prevent cheatgrass and other invasive species from displacing the Great Basin's natural ecosystems.
The Conservancy's Adirondack and Vermont chapters established a new freshwater conservation program to help protect Lake Champlain's complex aquatic systems and the diverse life they sustain. The move was prompted by the recent documentation of mounting threats alarming trends, such as the rapid spread of invasive zebra mussels and the failure of lake trout to reproduce naturally. The new program will expand partnerships focused on the lake's health and will pursue additional public funding for aquatic conservation.
Ecologically vulnerable landscapes in North Carolina received a helping hand from tomorrow's conservationists. Two dozen undergraduates from the University of Michigan and Western Michigan University journeyed to the Sandhills on an "alternative spring break." Rather than lounging on a beach, they planted thousands of longleaf pine seedlings and cleared hiking trails. On the Outer Banks, a Boy Scout troop used Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and hours of labor to map and remove invasive plants from the Conservancy's Nags Head Woods Preserve.
Baird's sparrows and upland sandpipers, whose populations are declining throughout their range, will be among the beneficiaries of a habitat-improvement project launched this year thanks to a recently awarded state wildlife grant. The Conservancy is removing tree rows and invasive leafy spurge--both of which degrade critical nesting habitat for prairie grassland birds--from its Brown Ranch, Davis Ranch and Pigeon Point preserves, as well as adjacent private lands in eastern North Dakota.
The Forest Service is updating its management guidelines for the 70,000-acre Sheyenne National Grassland, influenced in part by the restoration of a nearby Conservancy preserve. The grasslands at the Conservancy's 572-acre Pigeon Point Preserve in eastern North Dakota were once overrun by leafy spurge and other invasive plants. Using seed from its Brown Ranch Preserve, the Conservancy was able to restore native grasses to Pigeon Point.
Volunteers from the Fargo/Moorhead Sierra Club have been working with the Conservancy to maintain and protect key parts of the Sheyenne Delta. The volunteers helped remove buckthorn at the Conservancy's Pigeon Point Preserve, collected native plant seeds for restoration efforts at Brown Ranch and conducted surveys of western prairie fringed orchid populations on Forest Service lands. They have also played significant roles in helping alert the Conservancy to new populations of invasive plants and maintenance needs on preserves.
A motion-sensitive camera at the Conservancy's Nickel Preserve in the Ozarks of northeastern Oklahoma recently captured images of a foraging bear and a cougar--two species that have been largely absent from the Ozarks for decades. The presence of these animals indicates that the Conservancy's land-management efforts, including native-prairie restoration, prescribed burning, tree thinning and invasive-species control, are helping these species reclaim part of their former ranges.
Three Conservancy preserves, along with a key property protected by a conservation easement, are at the heart of the new Quail Habitat Restoration Initiative of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The program aims to restore quail habitat on privately owned lands by providing funding and technical assistance for habitat improvements. The Conservancy will partner with landowners in restoration efforts that include prescribed burning and invasive species control.
Drought in Oklahoma forced the Conservancy to postpone its plans to conduct prescribed burns to restore habitat at some of its preserves. Burn crews did not sit idle, however, as several wildfires burned parts of the Four Canyon, Pontatoc Ridge and Keystone Ancient Forest preserves. Cosnervancy crews helped contain some of the fires within natural areas and were pleased to see that the blazes reduced invasive woody species, which will benefit several important grassland and forest areas.
In concert with public television, government agencies and other partners, the Conservancy recently launched Stop the Invasion, a public campaign to address the threat of invasive species statewide. Web sites, news stories, volunteer weed pulls and a gardening guide are all raising awareness of the problem. Invasive species threaten nearly half of Oregon's 958 at-risk or endangered species, and just 21 invasive weeds cause more than $83 million in damage annually to local businesses.
Posted throughout Oregon and crisscrossing the state, a team of 12 AmeriCorps members spent a year under the tutelage of Conservancy staff conducting prescribed burns, removing invasive pants, gathering scientific data, maintaining trails and leading volunteer work parties. The highly successful partnership is being renewed for a second year.
Conservancy stewards at Cox Island Preserve celebrated a long-sought milestone: ridding the preserve of the last large patch of invasive saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens). Over seven years, with community and public-agency support, volunteers smothered 10 acres of cordgrass with the fabric. The successful effort will render the entire Oregon coast free of a pest that, while native in the East, is a serious threat to the health of West Coast estuaries.
The Conservancy and South Dakota State University, through the Prairie Coteau Habitat Partnership, began monitoring the effects of prescribed fire on habitat and forage quality in South Dakota's Prairie Coteau region. The information will be shared with landowners to demonstrate that keeping grasslands healthy through the use of prescribed fire can also have a positive economic effect by reducing expenses for weed control and improving cattle health. Most of the region's grasslands are privately owned, making landowner involvement in conservation vital.
A $25,000 grant will help the Conservancy and its partners expand their research on yellow toadflax, an aggressive invasive plant that is difficult to remove and is spreading at Ordway Prairie Preserve and surrounding lands. Building on the past two years of research and treatment, this year the partners will establish and monitor additional populations of weevils--which are being tested as a biocontrol on the plants.
The Conservancy's Ordway Prairie Preserve in the northcnetral part of the state has been invaded by yellow toadflax, an aggressive weed introduced to the United States from Europe. The plant is crowding out native prairie plants as it spreads rapidly across the 7,800-acre preserve and surrounding landscape. The Conservancy and a partnership of public and private agencies are pooling resources to explore control methods, such as applying herbicides, grazing goats and introducing insects that feed on the plant
In July 2007 wildfire burned nearly 2,000 acres at the Whitney Preserve in the Black Hills--including several areas where the Conservancy was monitoring native and invasive plants. The fire created an opportunity to gather information about the re-establishment of native vegetation, the colonization by grasses of previously forested areas and the spread of invasive species. The lessons learned here will assist with the management of this and other fire-dependent ecosystems.
This summer, the Conservnacy launched the first phase of a large-scale, 10-year effort to restore habitat at the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve. The preserve is part of the largest wetland ecosystem in Utah's Colorado River corridor and is home to hundreds of species of migratory birds, amphibians and aquatic mammals. The Conservancy began by removing roughly 70 acres of tamarisk and, in subsequent years, will remove dikes and invasive species, conduct controlled burns, and replant native vegetation.
Tamarisk, an aggressive invasive species, is choking out native species in the Colorado River Corridor. The Conservancy, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Moab community, is launching a comprehensive restoration project along Mile Creek in the Matheson Wetlands Preserve. Results from this five-year initiative, which will include tamarisk removal, native revegetation and long-term monitoring, will be shared with organizations battling invasives throughout the West.
Recreational development and invasive plants threaten the rich diversity of species living on the high, exposed summits of North Fork Mountain. The Conservancy recently purchased a 175-acre tract atop the mountain to secure one of the last unprotected stretches of the summit and bridge a critical gap in the 35,000 acres owned by the Forest Service in the heart of the magnificent Appalachian landscape.
Thanks to the support of Yale University's Armbrecht Family Fund and matching Forest Service monies, two researchers spent last summer in Smoke Hole canyon studying the effects of invasive Japanese stiltgrass on rare natural communities. The research revealed that stiltgrass hasn't yet reached important limestone glades and barrens, but it has encroached on moist limestone forests, where it poses a significant threat. The study results are helping the Conservancy, the Forest Service and private landowners develop management plans for controlling the plant.
The Conservancy is piloting new methods to control gorse (Ulex europaea), a prickly yellow flowering bush that was introduced by European settlers in the late 19th century. The plant has spread widely and has overtaken native vegetation in Chile's Valdivian Coastal Reserve. The pilot project involves cultivating four native tree species, which, when planted, will help to suppress the gorse, an option that will not only avoid chemical controls but also help restore native forest cover in degraded areas of the reserve.
In order to determine the best way to anticipate and respond to invasive species threats, the México program of the Conservancy has developed a report on the invasive species that might have high impact in México, along with priorities for their prevention and management.
--2007, via Ignacio March.
A small gray moth recently discovered on Isla Mujeres, six miles off the coast of Cancun, could wipe out many of Mexico's native and cultivated cactuses. The larvae of the Cactoblastis cactorum are voracious eaters of prickly pear cactuses. The Conservancy, the government and partner Aridamerica are working to prevent the moth's migration to the mainland through a public-awareness campaign, an early warning system and outreach to cactus growers.
The Conservancy worked with Venezuela's Ministry of Environment to incorporate the fight against invasive species into the country's conservation legislation. Because Venezuela's Biological Diversity Law now acknowledges the serious threat posed by invasive plants and animals--the second-leading cause of biodiversity loss worldwide--the country can develop policies to eradicate them. Farmers will benefit as well: The country is plagued by 78 exotic and invasive insect species that destroy corn, rice and coffee crops.
Invasive species management is not impossible. Read these success stories and be inspired.
Assessments of invasive species issues for various operating units in The Nature Conservancy.
Information about the core staff of The Nature Conservancy's Global Invasive Species Team.
Learn about our 1999 survey--a snapshot of invasive species issues across all of The Nature Conservancy.
Address information if you are trying to contact staff.
Other site resources
A fully-integrated hardware and software application for mapping invasives and tracking management actions.
A review of remote sensing technology, as applied to invasive species detection and mapping.
Adaptive management planning tools such as model plans for sites, weed control templates, etc. Very useful!
Learn about Invasive Species Networks that help promote best practices for invasive species abatement among staff in The Nature Conservancy, partner agencies, and other organizations.
Join our listserve to voice your frustrations and trumpet your successes.