Introducing CA’s First Conservation Landscape Specialist
Ever seen one of these signs out in open space? If so, you’ve witnessed CA’s invasive plant management strategy in action.🌱
This new program is being spearheaded by CA’s first conservation landscape specialist, Eric Walker, who joined the team in 2022. With 16+ years of experience working with invasive plants, we are thrilled to have Eric lead this effort to protect our native plant resources.
The threat of non-native invasives
Did you know that more than 100 non-native plant species can be found in Columbia? Many of these are considered invasive. This is problematic for a number of reasons:
- Decreased biodiversity
- With a lack of natural predators, invasives dominate and thrive
- Valuable native plants are displaced and don’t regenerate
- Biodiversity is the driver of major ecosystem processes and services, so this causes serious disruptions
- Interrupts and alters forest succession trajectories (60% of CA’s open space is classified as forest land)
- Decreases wildlife habitat and changes plant/animal community dynamics
- Reduces water quality
“Non-native invasives are terrible for forest health because of their effects on succession, an ecosystem process vital to forest health. When Columbia was developed, a lot of our forest patches were fragmented, which means that forest patches were cut into smaller pieces. This messed with our ecosystem integrity, created edge habitat, and made perfect conditions for invasive plants to thrive. These areas can be difficult to restore.” -Eric Walker
CA’s new program
CA’s Natural Area Restoration Program is all about protecting our native plant resources. To date, the program has broken ground on six habitat restoration projects. This involves taking areas that are heavily infested with invasives and improving the habitat for native organisms, from plants to birds to insects.
“Some of these sites can be restored in a year. Others will take 20 years. A challenge this great takes a lot of planning, but we’re determined to develop program methods and systems that provide long-term solutions,” says Eric.
You can learn more about this strategy by watching Eric’s online presentation here.
Be part of the solution
The easiest way to help the effort to tackle invasive species in Columbia? Don’t plant any invasives in your yard! You can find a list of recommended native plants for Maryland here.
You can also join CA’s dedicated volunteer group of Weed Warriors, who perform invasive weed removal tasks and are able to participate in the Adopt-a-Spot program. You can learn all about their mission here.
“I’m so excited and grateful to work in a place like Columbia where so many people want to be stewards of our open space,” says Eric. “Tackling this challenge will definitely involve the whole community.”
To learn about some of the most widespread invaders in Columbia, check out Eric’s educational videos below!