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Home > Conservation Story > Climate Change, Invasive Species, and Hope For The Future

Climate Change, Invasive Species, and Hope For The Future

Submitted by Portland Trails - In the spring of 2010 Portland Trails began working with student groups to identify and remove invasive species on our trails. Our goal is not only to remove harmful non-native species but to introduce our youth to the natural world, its interconnected and interdependent nature and the many challenges it faces.

Human activity is responsible for much of the pressure the natural world faces today. As development is eating away at wild lands, climate change is causing rapid change to native landscapes. Invasive species, introduced accidentally or pushed into new territories on the wave of climate change, are reducing the diversity and viability of native habitats. But the greatest threat humans pose is in our indifference. Our children spend far more time looking at screen- based media than they do interacting with nature. Without any visceral connection to the green world it is no wonder there is so much apathy towards its fate. But nature is a charismatic leading actor and it takes just a little exposure for people to sense its intrinsic value and its relevance to our own fate.

Upland invasive species can be found on almost all of the trails in greater Portland. Japanese Knotweed and Common Reed are gaining a foothold in the Fore River Sanctuary, Morrows Honeysuckle and Winged Burning Bush are forming thickets along the Stroudwater Trail. Asiatic Bittersweet and Japanese Barberry line the banks of the Presumpscot River and Multiflora Rose spreads its thorny canes into every habitat it finds.

Working with students from Portland High School and the University of Southern Maine, Portland Trails has begun to survey and remove invasives on the Stroudwater and in the Fore River Sanctuary. After an initial class session where in which we teach students how to identify invasives, the students take what they learn into the field. We ask them to survey their trail, mark the location of the invasives with the GPS unit, and then remove the plant and dispose of it. The students take their data back to class and input their findings into the National Early Detection and Distribution database (EDDMaps.org). Since the project began we have surveyed over a mile of the Stroudwater River and about one quarter of the 85-acre Fore River Sanctuary. Students have identified and removed Honeysuckle, Barberry, Bittersweet, Multi- Flora Rose and Knotweed. As we move into the spring semester, new student groups will resurvey these sections to see how well the removal techniques have worked and continue the process upstream.

These students have been a great help to Portland Trails. Together we have begun to make a positive impact on our shared open spaces. As the students have stepped out of the classroom and away from their screens, they have learned that they can personally help insure the future of Maine's wild lands. Moving forward we will catalog the entire Portland Trails network. We will continue to refine our control techniques and may, with luck, slow the advance of non-native species. While the natural world will continue to undergo drastic changes, through this program we may help spur the next generation to a greater understanding of their role in that change and inspire in them a sense of responsibility for the health of their world.

Written by Charlie Baldwin, Trail Foreman at Portland Trails