New York State is celebrating its first Invasive Species Awareness Week July 6-12, 2014!
Invasive species affect all New Yorkers – from hikers to highway personnel, from birders to boaters and from farmers to foresters. The mission of the New York Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) is to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action.
To celebrate the very first awareness week, Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs) across the state are hosting fun volunteer events targeting invasive species. These include awareness-raising nature walks, a garlic-mustard pesto making event, and a vigorous mile-a-minute vine removal.
In 2010, the NYS Thruway Authority planned to make much needed improvements to I-90 near Irving, NY, a project which would inadvertently affect about 2 acres of emergent marsh wetlands in the area.
In order to mitigate these adverse impacts on the marsh habitat, the NYS Thruway Authority teamed up with Evangola State Park and Watts Architecture & Engineering by reclaiming a dry, rocky, flat fill area and transforming it into a valuable and productive habitat.
July 28, 2010 – the project area at the beginning of construction – not very impressive, is it?
Taking advantage of the area’s natural hydrology and terrain, landscape engineers created a three acre wetland along Evangola’s entrance parkway. This new habitat feature is home to various amphibian, reptile, and fish species, as well as a nesting and foraging site for a variety of birds and ducks.
Wetlands play a very important role in the environment, including ecosystems services that are valuable to humans. Wetlands act as water purification system, flood control, and they improve the stability of shoreline. Wetlands are also often the most biologically diverse ecosystems in a region, serving as home to a wide range of plants and animals. In New York, wetlands are used as stopovers for migrating birds, as a breeding habitat for migratory birds and other birds that nest in wetlands, and as a winter home for many amphibian species.
The human-made wetland at Evangola also presents various opportunities for educational ecological study to school groups, summer camps, and scout troops that visit the park. A hands-on outdoor classroom allows students to gain first hand experiential knowledge of this important ecosystem type.
The project’s overwhelming success prompted the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York to Award the Wetland Mitigation project at Evangola State Park the Gold Award for Engineering Excellence to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, the first landscape project to ever win this prestigious award. The award was a nod to the project’s excellent design, and the educational opportunities it created.
Keeping track of the deer populations in NYS Parks isn’t a pretty job. On Monday, March 31st, a team from New York State Offices of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation traveled to Schunnemunk Mountain to carry out a deer pellet survey. Schunnemunk Mountain is located in Schunnemunk State Park in Orange County. One problem that the state parks are facing is deer overpopulation. The large populations of deer are eating native plants and causing a decrease in biodiversity. To inform our knowledge of deer populations, State Parks monitor the deer pellets left in parks to estimate the number of deer in a region.
To make estimates of deer numbers in a large area, wildlife specialists draw parallel transects across the park area.
Following the transect using compass and GPS, the surveyors measure out points 100 feet apart and scan the ground for pellet groups at each point. Points have a radius of four feet in every direction (See figure below). When counting pellets, we look for at least 10 pellets in a grouping. The number of pellet groups can help surveyors estimate the number of deer living in the area.
Naturally, this process involves scrambling through thick brush, across boggy creeks, and over big rocks, but it is all in the name of science!
Of course, it also means catching some lovely views from the top of Schunnemuck Mountain.
Post by Mary Greagan and Paris Harper, photos by Paris Harper
The NY Department of Environmental Conservation maintains about 3-5 radio-collared female bears every year in order to collect long-term data on the reproduction and movement of black bears. As you can imagine, getting collars on bears is not an easy business. This winter, when a rabbit hunter hunter reported a denning black bear with cubs at Pinnacle State Park, the DEC knew that this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
Adult female black bears give birth every other year, with birthing occurring around mid-January. Collars are never put on small cubs because they grow quickly and the collar would pose a strangulation risk. However, DEC felt that the mother bear identified by the hunter would be an ideal target for collaring.
This winter, DEC partnered with State Parks, the Black Bear Management class at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, and veterinarians and technicians from Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester in order to radio-collar one female black bear. The process involves tranquilizing the bear while still in her den in order to attach the collar. Because the bear is usually immobilized for half an hour to an hour, the specialists also need to care for the cubs and keep them warm while others are working on their mother.
The following link to a YouTube video will give you a good idea of what a den visit entails,
Evicting invasive species from our parks is a tough job. Clearing Phragmites from around the rim of Moreau Lake in Moreau Lake State Park, for example, takes a large team of environmental staff and Student Conservation Association Interns an entire day, as we found out in early April.
Phragmites is a tall reed which grows all over the world and has culturally been used for food, weapons, weaving material, music instruments.¹ However, populations of Eurasian Phragmites were introduced to the U.S by boat during the 18th and 19th centuries. Lacking natural population controls, the invasive Phragmites has rapidly spread throughout the U.S.²
Phragmites spreads rapidly because, in addition to reproducing through seeds, it also clones itself through rhizomes, a type of root that can form new, genetically identical plants. In this way, Phragmites can rapidly form dense stands that overcome all other plants in an area.³
Cutting down Phragmites isn’t easy work. Structurally similar to bamboo, Phragmites needs to be cut down with a heavy machete or a metal-bladed weedwhacker. Plant can grow as high as fifteen feet and often shelter higher populations of ticks than stands of native plants.
Because of the particularly pernicious nature of Phragmites, NYS Parks uses herbicide on large stands, in addition to manual and mechanical forms of control. However, even after the plant is dead, cutting Phragmites down is an important part of the restoration process because it allows native plants to recolonize the area, improving the health of wetland ecosystems and building a buffer against future Phragmites invasions.