This is a call to arms ... your own two strong arms to help control the invaders that are robbing New Jersey of its natural heritage.
Our state historically has had an extremely rich botanical diversity owing to its geography and climate, which put it in an overlap zone between northern and southern floral composition. As a result, we are at the northern end of the range for many southern plants and vice versa. Furthermore, though small in size, New Jersey's topography falls into five distinct physiographic regions ranging from the sandy outer coastal plain to the ridge and valley region in the northwest corner, each with its own species complexity. Records dating back to the mid-1800's document occurrences of a huge variety of plants scouted by botanists in years gone by. Occurrences of many species have shrunk dramatically in recent years and many scattered populations have been obliterated by development. A more insidious cause of this decline is invasive plant species.
An invasive plant can be defined as one that is not native to an area and whose presence has the potential to overwhelm native plants because of its aggressive growth and/or reproductive habits. We are all familiar with some notorious invaders: multiflora rose, garlic mustard, Japanese stilt-grass and purple loosestrife, to name a few. In many areas, these alien species have driven out cherished native plants such as spicebush, cut-leaved toothwort, Jack-in-the-pulpit and spotted jewelweed, including plants that are beneficial to birds.
Invasive plants are a threat to biodiversity and are a serious economic problem.
It would be wonderful if we could eradicate these prolific invaders and let our native treasures rebound. And we should control them where we can. But, given the fact that time and resources are limited and some patches of invasives have reached monstrous proportions, it might be more prudent and practical to seek out and eliminate stealthy emerging populations of non-native plants that have the potential to become a big problem in the future. Such a strategy is called "early detection -- rapid response."
Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and Upper Raritan Watershed Association have joined forces and received funding to launch such a program--the Central Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team. The Strike Team represents the state's first comprehensive effort toward cooperative management of invasive plants through public-private partnership. Introduced at a kick-off event on September 30, the Hopewell Valley arm of the program already has at least two dozen volunteers and several partner organizations. Washington Crossing Audubon became a partner in the project in November and we hope to enlist some volunteers for our own team. More than two thousand acres of public and private land have already been surveyed and some eradication work has begun. Populations of targeted invasives are being mapped using GPS technology and GIS software. You can learn more about the program by visiting www.fohvos.org or www.urwa.org. You can also download invasive plant fact sheets at the sites.
Become a Strike Team volunteer! WCAS will start to tackle a couple of sites in late winter or early spring. After initial training, field visits will be fairly flexible. For starters, we are requesting deployment to favorite WCAS sites in the Hopewell Valley area, e.g. the Pole Farm (above photo) and the Featherbed Lane Avian Research Station. If you would like to be a Strike Team volunteer, contact Pat Sziber at SziBird@aol.com with "WCAS Strike Team" in the subject line.