Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guest Article - Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Community Forestry Outreach

Illinois is full of dedicated people and innovative ideas for addressing invasive species. From time to time, this blog is going to host guest articles in which the stories about some of these people, projects, or ideas are told. The next article in this series comes from Jennifer Behnken, Urban and Community Forester with the Community Forestry Outreach Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  Jennifer writes here about the Community Forestry Outreach Program and how it addresses invasive species in Illinois. All of the guest articles can be viewed HERE.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Community Forestry Outreach
by Jennifer Behnken, Urban and Community Forester

Forest planning and management are instrumental in monitoring conditions, taking stock of species age and composition, and making informed decisions toward reaching specified goals and objectives. Urban forestry is an vital element of landscaping planning, yet commonly overlooked by municipality members. In some ways, trees in an urban landscape have greater positive impacts and direct benefits since populated areas are usually subject to harsher environmental conditions.

Urban forestry includes all trees in municipal settings, including parks, schools, cemeteries, right-of-ways (or street trees), trees around businesses, and trees right in your own backyard. Trees do not understand property boundaries between public and private sectors and thus, generate benefits to all members of a community, either directly or indirectly. Additionally, trees are an essential component to a community's green infrastructure by providing a variety of ecosystem services and deserve a planned and programmatic approach to an urban forest's development and maintenance.

Trees provide a wide variety of benefits, serving a valuable function within society. These benefits are broken down into three categories: (1) environmental, (2) social, and (3) economical. Environmentally, trees are an excellent water and air filtration unit. They uptake additional stormwater runoff as well as assist in erosion control, especially in disturbed, non-vegetated soils. They sequester carbon, regulate temperatures with their shade and reduce the heat island effect. Trees supply food, shelter, and homes to urban wildlife and serve as corridor through fragmented areas.

Socially, trees encourage community interaction through increased recreational and educational opportunities and connectivity to the outdoors. They provide a sense of privacy (e.g. wind break), decrease in criminal activity, and promote a sense of peace. Studies show that people are less stressed when exposed to trees and recovery times from health concerns are decreased. Overall, trees improve the image of a community. Economically, tree serve as an attractant to local tourism and job creation. Businesses with trees potentially generate more revenue as well as increase property values. Their regulating temperatures save power and decrease utility bills while increased water uptake decreases stress on stormwater systems.

While budget allocations need to be established for tree care, maintenance, and management, trees remain a valuable asset in a community. Increased efficiency and tree longevity in the long-term equal reduced costs. Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Community Forestry Outreach provides free assistance to communities throughout the state of Illinois to reach these types of urban forestry goals. This assistance can help communities move towards sustainable management of their urban forests, despite limited personnel and financial resources. Participation and implementation of effective tree management practices empowers communities to promote urban forest health and awareness and encourages volunteer efforts. Adapting management techniques and long-term maintenance ensures that community receive the full benefits of trees while supporting other planning goals in sync with the community's vision.

SIUC Community Forestry Outreach
Tree Planting Seminar
 SIUC Community Forestry Outreach helps municipalities develop and establish urban forestry practices by assisting with management plans (i.e. pruning, planting, removal, monitoring, etc.), conducting tree inventories, forming tree boards, drafting tree ordinances, organizing volunteer events, such as tree plantings, hosting educational seminars and events, and presenting workshops addressing a variety of urban forestry topics. Promoting the "right tree in the right place" and generating awareness endorses efficient management methods while supporting tree health and vitality, thereby connecting communities with their urban forests.

Invasive species management is a essential factor of urban forestry management. Just like the trees, invasive species know no boundaries between property jurisdictions. Urban settings are also prime areas of disturbance between construction projects, street maintenance, mowing, and other digging practices in parks and backyards, making them ground zero and ripe for invasive species habitat. Additionally, many invasive species originate from ornamentals that are commonly planted in urban landscapes (if not already prohibited to sell or plant). Other pests, such as the Emerald Ash Borer, take advantage of our native trees, such as ash trees, by using them as hosting grounds, wreaking havoc to the ash population in the process.

Outreach efforts bring to light invasive species impacts, including their ecological and economical consequences. Public presentations and publications empower people to identify these species, eradicate existing populations, and consider other planting decisions that support native habitats, or at least non-invasive exotics. Ash tagging is one example of rallying citizens into emerald ash borer awareness. Ash trees are tagged to demonstrate ash tree inventory in proportion to other tree species and the amount of risk that a community faces in losing tree canopy coverage once the emerald ash borer attacks an area. The dialogue below is an example of signage that would be posted on ash tree:
Alert: This is an ash tree!

It is one of 7.5 billion ash trees throughout the country and many ash trees in Pittsfield. All ash trees in Illinois are at risk of an emerald ash borer attack. The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a beetle that bores under the bark of ash trees and eventually kills them.

Many communities in the Midwest have lost hundreds or even thousands of ash trees because of the beetle. EAB was discovered in northern Illinois in 2006. EAB has not yet been identified in Pittsfield but is expected to arrive very soon. The Pittsfield Tree Board, with the help of high school students, is tagging all ash trees on public property to raise awareness in the community about EAB and the destruction it causes.

How can you help? 
  • Don’t move firewood - This will help slow the spread of the beetle.
  • Spread the word. Tell your neighbors and friends about EAB.
  • Determine if you have ash trees in your yard or on your block.
  • Keep an eye on the news, so you can learn when EAB does arrive.

Ash Tagging

 The goal is to institute a grassroots awareness and eventually administer these suggestions into city-wide planning. Tree planting lists in city ordinances is an example of how municipalities enforce tree planting regulations. Cities develop a list of tree species approved for public right-of-way plantings, such as oak, dogwood, redbud, hawthorn, maple, bald cypress, kentucky coffeetree, and other native species while banning other species, such as bradford pear, tree-of-heaven, and princess tree.

Another project in action is developing a demonstration plot of native tree species to employ as alternatives to callery pear (mother of the bradford or cleveland pear trees). This particular species is widely overused in landscaping for its desirable shape and spring flowers. While bradford pear trees were bred to be sterile, cross pollination with other callery pear cultivars has allowed this species to escape and form infestations. Our goal with this demonstration plot is to show consumers and city planners there are other viable options that are environmentally friendly and still have comparable prices for private and public budgets. Origins of this idea stem from a successful program and demonstration area in Columbia, MO in with the Parks and Recreation division and the Missouri Department of Conservation: http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec/Parks_and_Facilities/stopthespread.php

The demonstration plot will be planted in conjunction with the Carbondale Parks District at Attucks Park and Green Earth at the Pyles Fork Preserve, a non-profit organization in Carbondale whose mission is to preserve natural areas for public use within the city. While the project is still in development, other partners include the Illinois Native Plant Society, University of Illinois Extension, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We are seeking tree and planting material (e.g. mulch) donations and recruiting volunteers to help with the actual planting. Signage will be placed at a later date with information about the effects of planting callery pear cultivars, the benefits of choosing the alternative species on display, and a description about trees themselves.

First Detector students learning about invasive ornamental plants
For further information about discovering how community trees work for you, visit http://www.treebenefits.com/calculator/. Test the environmental and economical value of your tree by visiting this site to obtain an estimation of its benefits on annual basis. Do your part by monitoring for invasive species encroachment, maintain a healthy and productive forest, and plant trees!

Additional Resources:


Jennifer Behnken
Urban & Community Forester
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oak Problems - New Publication from University of Illinois Plant Clinic

Jan. 24, 2014

Source: Stephanie Porter, 217-244-3254, satterle@illinois.edu
News writer: Stephanie Henry, 217-244-1183, slhenry@illinois.edu

Recent publication addresses common oak problems in Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – In the past several years, oak trees in Illinois have continued to develop disease and pest problems. Each year, the University of Illinois Plant Clinic diagnoses hundreds of oak samples with multiple pest, disease, and cultural issues, said Stephanie Porter, a plant diagnostician and outreach specialist with the Plant Clinic.

There are 21 different oak species native to Illinois, and oaks can be long-lived trees. For example, specimens of white oak, the state tree of Illinois, have been known to live for more than 200 years. Many oak species that are used within the landscape are native; however, native does not translate to problem-free, Porter said.

Problems can arise when trees are planted in locations where the species is not well adapted. Oaks require full sun and grow poorly when planted in shade. Soil preferences vary widely depending upon the oak species. Porter recommends researching the site conditions as well as the cultural requirements prior to purchasing and planting an oak species. “Time spent researching helps ensure the right tree is selected for the right place and avoids future problems,” she said.

Porter, in collaboration with other U of I specialists, has recently released a report titled Oak Problems. It includes pictures and brief descriptions of oak cultural issues as well as the most common disease and insect problems that affect oak each year in Illinois. This report can be downloaded from the U of I Plant Clinic website at: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/plantclinic/downloads/Plant%20Clinic%20Report%20Oak%20LO.pdf.

Fire Science Workshop: “Fire Management, Japanese Stiltgrass, and Ecosystem Services”

February 20, 2014 9:00 AM – 3 PM CT
Presentations 9 AM – 12 PM, Fieldtrip 1 – 3 PM (CT)

Shawnee National Forest Supervisor’s Office, Harrisburg, Illinois (MAP)

Oak Woodlands & Forests Fire Consortium, the Shawnee National Forest, and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois are hosting this workshop to explore opportunities and limitations to prescribed fire use in southern Illinois and Indiana, particularly associated with Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). Join researchers, fire practitioners, and land managers for a series of fire science presentations and a fieldtrip to a nearby Japanese stiltgrass infested site.

Attendance is limited to 60 attendees

Register online: http://www.oakfirescience.com/workshops/

Hosted by: Oak Woodlands & Forests Fire Consortium, University of Illinois, Shawnee National Forest

Presenters and topics:

Dr. Sarah Emery (University of Louisville)
Demographic responses of Microstegium Vimineum to prescribed fires and herbicide

Dr. Jennifer Fraterrigo (University of Illinois)
Effects of prescribed fire and Microstegium vimineum invasion on nitrogen cycling

Bruce Henry (Southern Illinois University)
Assessing Illinois prescribed fire community needs and limitations to expanding wildland fire programs

Tyler Refsland (University of Illinois)
The use of plant functional traits to predict the impact of fire management on ecosystem services

Stephanie Wagner (University of Illinois)
Fire effects on the invasive annual grass Microstegium vimineum

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

University of Illinois Article - Harvesting invasive plants to convert into ethanol is not an easy process


URBANA — Although invasive Asian carp have been successfully harvested and served on a dinner plate, harvesting invasive plants to convert into ethanol isn’t as easy.

According to a recent study at the University of Illinois, harvesting invasive plants for use as biofuels may sound like a great idea, but the reality poses numerous obstacles and is too expensive to consider, at least with the current ethanol pathways.

“When the topic of potential invasion by non-native biofuel crops has been raised at conferences I’ve attended, the ecologists in the room have suggested we use biomass from existing invaders instead,” said Lauren Quinn, an invasive plant ecologist in U of I’s Energy Biosciences Institute. “They worry about the potential deployment of tens of thousands of acres of known invaders like Arundo donax for ethanol production. They’d say, ‘we have all of these invasive plants. Let’s just harvest them instead of planting new ones!’ But when I analyzed the idea from a broader perspective, it just didn’t add up.”

Quinn explored the idea of harvesting invasive plants from many angles but said that the overarching problem is the non-sustainability of the profit stream. “From a business person’s perspective, it just doesn’t function like a typical crop that is harvested and then replanted or harvested again the following year,” she said. “Here, land managers are trying to get rid of an invasive plant using an array of methods, including herbicides, so there wouldn’t necessarily be multiple years of harvest.”

Other obstacles Quinn examined are the need for specially designed harvesting equipment, the development of new conversion technologies for these unique plants, and even the problems associated with transportation.

“One of the biggest issues is the absence of appropriate biorefineries in any given area,” Quinn said. “If there isn’t one nearby, growers would have to transport the material long distances, and that’s expensive.”

Perhaps more important, Quinn discussed the issues with the high variability of the cell wall composition across different species. “Most existing or planned biorefineries can process only a single, or at best, a small handful of conventional feedstocks, and are not likely to be flexible enough to handle the variety of material brought in from invasive plant control projects,” Quinn said. “The breakdown and processing of plant tissues to ethanol requires different temperatures, enzymes, and equipment that are all highly specific. The proportion of cellulose, lignin, and other fractionation products can differ even within a single genotype if it is grown in multiple regions so the variations between completely different plant types would be an even greater hurdle.”

Quinn isn’t discounting the idea of harvesting invasive plants, however. She encourages control of invasive populations and subsequent ecological restoration but does not believe that invasive biomass can replace dedicated energy crops at present.

“One day there might be a pathway toward ethanol conversion of invasive biomass,” Quinn said. “But until we do get to that point, there may be possibilities to use invasive plants as alternative sources of energy, like combustion for electricity. Invasive biomass could drop into the existing supply of biomass being co-fired with coal in the already huge network of electrical power plants across the country. That would eliminate the technological barriers that conversion to ethanol presents.

“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to look at ethanol conversion processes eventually, I’m just saying that right now, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of economic sense.”

“Why not harvest existing invaders for bioethanol?” was published in a recent issue of Biological Invasions. A. Bryan Endres and Thomas B. Voigt contributed. The research was funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station new webinar series - Invasive Plants – Issues, Challenges, and Discoveries

The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station is pleased to announce a new webinar series, Invasive Plants – Issues, Challenges, and Discoveries. This free interactive series, which includes seven webinars, will provide attendees with cutting-edge information about invasive plants and their management. We encourage land managers, professionals, scientists, and other interested people to attend. The first webinar will take place on Thursday, January 23, 2014 from 12:00pm- 1:00pm Mountain Time.

Invasive Species Webinar Series
Invasive Plants – Issues, Challenges, and Discoveries
The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station is pleased to announce a new webinar series, Invasive Plants – Issues, Challenges, and Discoveries. This free interactive series, which includes seven webinars, will provide attendees with cutting-edge information about invasive plants and their management. We encourage land managers, professionals, scientists, and other interested people to attend.
Webinar Series Schedule (All webinars will begin at 12:00pm Mountain Time)
Date Webinar Topic
  • January 23, 2014: Determining identity and origin of invasive plant species - John Gaskin
  • February 27, 2014: Rapid evolution of biocontrol insects in response to climate change - Peter McEvoy
  • March 13, 2014: Merging chemical ecology and biocontrol to predict efficacy and climate effects - Justin Runyon
  • March 27, 2014: Hybridization in weedy species - Sarah Ward
  • April 10, 2014: Biogeography of plant invasions - Dean Pearson
  • April 24, 2014: Pathogen-based biological control of grassy weeds - Susan Meyer
  • May 8, 2014: Classical biological control of weeds - Sharlene Sing
To participate in the presentations, please log in to Adobe Connect and dial in by telephone.
If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before it is recommended that you test your connection: http://rmrs.adobeconnect.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm
To join the webinar click on the following link: http://rmrs.adobeconnect.com/invasives/ (select “enter as guest”, then type your name). No prior registration is necessary for this webinar.
For audio, dial: 1-888-844-9904 Access code: 8405053#
Webinars will be recorded and accessible online as they become available.
The webinar website will be available by January 1 at: http://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/webinar-series/invasive-species/ For additional information contact Carly Woodlief (webinar technical coordinator) at ckwoodlief@fs.fed.us

This webinar series is sponsored by the Station’s Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program.

Winter freeze aids forest preserves' fight against invasive species

Frozen ground lets workers take heavy equipment to more remote areas

By Matthew Walberg, Chicago Tribune reporter

6:26 p.m. CST, December 26, 2013

See original story at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-invasive-species-winter-met-20131226,0,876242.story

The bitter cold that has enveloped the Chicago area might not be everyone's favorite, but it's perfect weather for those who continue the fight against a host of invasive plants during the winter months.

"This kind of freeze we're getting right now is what we dream about during the summer," said Chip O'Leary, the resource ecologist for the Cook County Forest Preserve District. "A lot of that work we do ... requires frozen conditions so we can get heavy equipment out without damaging the soil."

Atop the agency's most-wanted list are larger trees and shrubs such as buckthorn, honeysuckle and multiflora rose. The three are some of the worst offenders in a rogue's gallery of non-native plants that have overrun vast tracts of the district's property.

The invaders choke out native plants, including those that provide food for wildlife, turning the land into "green deserts."

Watchdog organizations that once accused the district of paying more attention to politics and patronage hiring than to maintaining the agency's properties now applaud the renewed focus on reclaiming the land from tenacious invasive species. These bad boys of the plant world have overrun more than two-thirds of the district's 106 square miles of land, officials said.

Benjamin Cox heads of one of the most prominent watchdog organizations, Friends of the Forest Preserves. Much of the eradication work, he said, is carried out by volunteers, adding that the district is far more involved than it once was. He said officials are much better at marshaling volunteers or hiring contractors.

Work crews spend much of the spring and summer removing unwanted plants and reseeding areas with native species. The winter deep freeze allows workers to trek into more remote areas with large chippers and other equipment to clear infested areas, O'Leary said.

"I think in a lot of ways it's easier during the winter," he said. "Any animals that might use that stuff are pretty much dormant. The snakes are underground and the birds have flown south. ... And you also don't have annoying things like mosquitoes or bees or poison ivy."

Cox said he also prefers volunteering during the winter.

"You just dress warmly, and pretty soon you find yourself stripping off layers," he said. "And we usually build a fire, since that's the most efficient way to get rid of this stuff once it's cut down. People like that — it's nice to be around."