In the Northeast, forests with entirely native flora are not the norm

Apr 30, 2013

Two-thirds of all forest inventory plots in the Northeast and Midwestern United States contain at least one non-native plant species, a new U.S. Forest Service study found. The study across two dozen states from North Dakota to Maine can help land managers pinpoint areas on the landscape where invasive plants might take root.

"We found two-thirds of more than 1,300 plots from our annual forest inventory had at least one introduced species, but this also means that one-third of the plots had no introduced species," said Beth Schulz, a research ecologist at the who led the study, which is published in the current issue of the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. "By describing forest stands with few or no introduced species, we help managers focus on areas where early detection and rapid response can be most effective to slow the spread of introduced and potentially ."

Nonnative, or introduced, plants are those species growing in areas where they are not normally found. Whether they were intentionally released or escaped cultivation, nonnative plants ultimately can become invasive, displacing native species, degrading habitat, and altering critical .

Schulz and her colleague Andrew Gray, a research forester at the station, analyzed data gathered by the Northern Research Station's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, which collects and reports statistics on the condition of forests in a 24-state region as part of its regular surveys. The data set, collected from 2001 to 2008, includes a sample of all trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, grasses, fern and fern-like plants conducted on a subset of the region's FIA plots.

Among the study's findings:

  • There are 305 introduced plant species growing in the region's forests, including some not currently found on regional monitoring lists;
  • Multiflora rose (which was recorded on over one-quarter of all plots studied), , and garlic mustard are among the most prevalent nonnative species;
  • The presence of nonnative species increases as the level of forest fragmentation increases;
  • Forests surveyed within the Eastern Broadleaf ecological province—which runs from the Atlantic coastal plains of Maine and New Hampshire to the southwest into Ohio and into the high hills and semi-mountainous areas of West Virginia—contain the greatest assortment of introduced plant species.

The study's results can help focus research on individual species more widely distributed than previously thought or with yet-unexplored potential to become problematic.

Explore further: Declining catch rates in Caribbean green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Invasive grass may impede forest regeneration

Apr 09, 2007

The nonnative invasive grass Microstegium vimineum may hinder the regeneration of woody species in southern forests. Chris and Sonja Oswalt (Forest Service Southern Research Station) and Wayne Clatterbuck (University of Tennessee) ...

California's controlled fires boost biodiversity

Nov 23, 2010

In certain ecosystems, such as the mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada region of the western United States, fires are a natural and essential occurrence for maintaining forest health. However, for many decades, resource ...

Invasive tallowtree spreading rapidly across Gulf coast

Jun 08, 2010

A study by a USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station scientist shows the numbers of nonnative Chinese tallowtree in Louisiana, Mississippi and east Texas grew by about 370 percent over a 16-year period. The spread of ...

Recommended for you

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

5 hours ago

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

8 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.