Project Title: Nipping it in the Bud – Support for Invasive Plant Early Detection/Rapid Response in Shenandoah National Park

Project Purpose: To mitigate the threat of new invasive plants establishing in Shenandoah and restore native plant species in order to make the park more resistant to future invasive plants.

Prevention of the establishment of invasive species is less costly, both in environmental and economic terms, than long-term control of established weeds. Despite our best efforts, weed establishment cannot always be prevented. The next most cost-effective, feasible management approach involves locating species while populations are small—early detection—and promptly eradicating or containing the new invader – rapid response—before it becomes abundant.

This project funds two Biological Science Technician positions to support for surveillance for new or uncommon invasive plants, making it feasible to the park to act quickly when invasive plants are detected.

Project Goals:

  • to increase surveillance for new invasive plants and new occurrences of still uncommon species
  • to initiate management of any new discoveries
  • to minimize the chance that roughly three dozen established but still uncommon invasive plants become major problems in Shenandoah National Park

Project Impact: Having staff devoted to this effort for four years will substantially reduce the time and money required to maintain control of existing occurrences of these species, fully eliminating a majority of them.  Having the resources to conduct surveillance across the park should allow us to refine and better target limited resources for future surveys.  Additionally, initiating restoration of some more heavily infested areas should eventually make them more resistant to new invasions. 

This project targets 35 harmful species scattered across 104 discrete locations in the park, covering approximately 1600 acres.  Known occurrences of 25 of these species can likely be eradicated within several seasons, while the remaining ten would be controlled to the point where additional spread can be prevented with minimal effort.

Project Funding: $49,186 in FY23 and FY24 

You Can Help! Use the iNaturalist Shenandoah National Park Early Detection of Invasive Plants smartphone app to document occurrences of new and rare invasive plants, or volunteer to assist with the removal of some of the larger, more accessible invasive plant populations, the restoration (primarily tree planting, tree cage construction or herbaceous species planting) of the more heavily infested sites, or the native seed collection for site restoration. 

Project Progress: 

  • Native Plant Nursery: Since project initiation in FY14, funding from the SNP Trust has been used primarily to partially support a seasonal technician to maintain the nursery, plant native species at revegetation sites and to collect native seed. Since October 1, 2013, approximately 10,000 plants produced in the park nursery have been planted and protected at restoration sites. Another several hundred seedlings have been salvaged from roadside locations and transplanted in the nursery. Seed of 60 native species have been collected in the Park for use in vegetation restoration projects.  This project allowed staff to revegetate sites beyond work funded as part of other projects, such as the SNP Trust-supported Forest Restoration Initiative.  These included Hogwallow Flats and a former horse corral at Skyland in need of restoration. 
  • Native Plant Restoration: This project supports a term employee to recruit, train and field-supervise volunteers involved in the SHEN invasive plant management and restoration program. This additional capacity results in increased opportunities for short term and independent volunteers, improved integration of volunteer efforts with those of control and restoration crews and better recognition of volunteer efforts.
  • Noteworthy Progress:
    • Herbaceous species planted a restoration sites are beginning to reproduce and spread
    • Trees planted early in the project are now 6’ to 8’ tall and growing out of their protective cages.
    • New revegetation projects have been initiated at a number of sites, including at Thornton Gap, Big Meadows Campground and at Dark Hollow Falls.
    • Survival of planted tree seedlings and other vegetation continues to be quite high—regularly exceeding 80%.
    • Propagation protocols have been developed for a number of species for which little—if any—information existed previously.
    • Several small scale experimental trials implemented during this project have helped refine our approach to revegetation, especially for herbaceous species.

Notes from the Field

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