When gazing out across an emerald forest, most people only view the big picture. They are captivated by the lush vegetation that provides a home for a vast array of incredible wildlife. To the untrained eye, this serene tableau may seem immaculate. However, there is an insidious predator which has gradually manifested itself in the picture. These sneaky intruders are becoming more prevalent. Invasive species, plants which are able to vigorously thrive in foreign environments, are unwelcomed pests which need to be stopped.
As many of you environmentalists probably know, ecosystems are exceptionally intricate. At the same time, they also tend to be incredibly fragile. The sustainability of the ecosystem depends on its inhabitants. For example, if a specific species of plant or animal were to suddenly disappear, the rest of the food chain would not function correctly. Consequently, the entire balance of the local environment is thrown into disarray. After learning about the magnitude of this issue, we were inspired to observe one of our local ecosystems and make a difference.
When I say “we”, I mean the students who are currently conducting environmental research in Connecticut. Because we live in such a woodsy area of the country, we decided that the forest would be the best place to start our efforts. We mainly focused on a plant called the Japanese Barberry. The Japanese Barberry is harmful to indigenous plants because it stunts the growth of local trees by raising the pH of the soil around the plant. Not only is this prickly pest riddled with thorns, it also houses Deer ticks. These little black bugs are especially troublesome due to the fact that they can carry Lyme disease.
Armed with herbicide, protective gloves, and hedge trimmers, we set out to eradicate the Japanese Barberry. Our removal method required barberry chute to be trimmed until only one leaf remained and was then sprayed with high strength roundup. We were able to clear all the barberry from a particular stream area near the school and decided to follow this up by slowly removing or significantly reducing invasive plants in the area while managing the flow of the stream along with the introduction of native plants to the region. The Deer Tick population declined in the area by 75 % as a result of our efforts. It felt great to help reduce the impact Lyme disease. Furthermore, it made us so happy to help restore harmony to one of our local ecosystems.
Sam is a high school student in New England. She enjoys reading, foreign languages, and being astounded by nature.
Before and After: