Glossy buckthorn, an innocent-looking plant native to Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe, made its way to the Northeastern United States and began to invade local forests, siphoning nutrients from the soil at a rapid pace. This fast-growing shrub is only one of the invasive species threatening Eastern White Pine trees throughout the U.S., posing enough danger for its sale and distribution to be outlawed in many states.
To protect these valuable trees, which represent an important part of regional economies, the USDA granted a half-million dollar grant to the University of New Hampshire to study the economics of managing invasive plants in forests owned by private landowners. In New Hampshire alone, the forest products industry totals nearly $1.4 billion.
Researchers with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the university will oversee a project that will determine the extent to which private landowners with different ownership objectives act as a driver of bio-invasions in the landscape. This will help them craft strategies and public policy that can help manage invasive species.
“Thirty- five percent of U.S. forests are owned by more than 10 million individuals and families with different goals and motivations and landownership fragmentation is expected to increase,” says Experiment Station researcher Shadi Atallah, who will direct the project. “These landowners’ individual invasive management decisions over time and across a forested landscape can either facilitate or impede society’s ability to manage invasions and secure the continued provision of forest ecosystem services that society’s welfare relies upon.”
“Effective management of invasive plants is critical for the long-term ecological health of forest ecosystems and the economic vitality of communities. Increasingly, the management of forest plant invasions is recognized as a challenge that requires multidisciplinary efforts that takes into account both the natural and socioeconomic aspects of the problem.”
Image of glossy buckthorn via Wikimedia Commons