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Plan First, Then Control

Posted in Planning

1. Assess the Site

Pay close attention to the habitats being invaded, to determine which habitats need further protections and management. Note the habitats which surround the natural area, and consider how the natural area fits within the larger landscape. Look for source populations of invasive plants along likely corridors of dispersal (roads, trails, forest edges, waterways, and such).

Take time to document the natural communities to be protected, including sensitive species, breeding or feeding habitat, surface water, wetlands, soil types, and typical types of disturbance.

2. Plan and Prioritize

Learn about the biology and the life cycle of each species to be managed.

Consider which plants pose the greater threat to the habitats to be protected. For the natural area to be managed, ask

  • Which invasive plant populations are spreading the fastest on the site?
  • Which species are the most resource-intensive to remove?
  • How large is the population of juvenile plants, or how extensive is the seedbank?
  • How much of the available habitat is already occupied by invasive species?
  • When is the habitat or sensitive native species more vulnerable to damage from removal methods?

For each of these target invasive species, ask

  • At what time of year is the target species easiest to detect?
  • When is the target most vulnerable to removal? For example, most perennial plants have expended most of their reserved energy at the time of flowering and fruit production.

3. Commit to Treatment

Be persistent and be patient. It took time for invasive plants to occupy the available habitat, and it will take time to remove them.

What to expect from treatments depends on the methods used, the local seedbank or community structure, and abiotic factors such as soil and climate conditions.

Schedule follow-up assessments and additional treatments. Prepare for a flush of new growth from seedbanks or root resprouts.

Remove invasive plants with an eye for how the plant community will develop in the following decades.

Have a restoration plan in place to re-establish local vegetation. Think like the local plants: collect and sow seeds from adjacent native plant communities.

4. Keep Records!

If you already have management records or biological inventory reports for your sites, congratulations. Now pay it forward by documenting the current site condition, management goals, and all stewardship activity.

Record your management efforts consistently to account for your progress, including maps of the area searched, where the targets were found and treated, person-hours of labor, amount of biomass removed or herbicide used or machine hours. Track the efforts over multiple years.

Use maps: paper, electronic, hand-sketched, gps coordinates, gps tracklogs…anything! Mark them clearly for future surveys and treatment plans.

Photographs and maps are powerful communication tools. Photo monitoring projects are relatively simple (compared to detailed quantitative vegetation monitoring) and effective. Photos of people working hard to remove invasive plants can tell many stories. Video clips showing the extent of invasions (especially before and after treatment) also help document site conditions and changes.

 Further Reading
Photo Credits
  1. Cleveland Metroparks
  2. Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,
  3. Cleveland Metroparks
  4. Cleveland Metroparks