Environmental Club helps to remove invasive species from nature preserve

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By Sarah Neely

On Sunday, Oct. 12, Environmental Club took several students on a trip to a tranquil nature preserve located in Shushan, N.Y.

The Dionondehowa nature preserve was founded in 1995 by Bonnie Hoag and Geoffrey Ovington and covers an area of roughly 217 square acres.

Dionondehowa’s rich woodland offers provides a diverse habitat that functions as a recharge and refuge area for native plants and animals.

The preserve is home to several American chestnut trees, a species that was once one of the most important and plentiful forest trees in its range before being devastated by the chestnut blight in the early 1900s.

Though one may initially think that such an organization would be dedicated solely to protection and preservation, destruction in fact plays a critical role in maintaining the well-being of any nature preserve.

An example of beneficial destruction is the removal of invasive species.

Invasive species, which are defined as plants or animals that are not native to a specific region, pose a great threat to the well-being of many ecological systems.

They are characterized by a high dispersal ability, rapid growth and reproduction, tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions and phonotypical plasticity.

Phonotypical plasticity is the ability to alter growth in order to best suit a species’ current environmental conditions.

Efforts must be made to remove and control invasive species in order to avoid their numerous adverse effects.

The presence of invasive species is a serious issue that arouses much concern in those who are environmentally aware, as invasive species are capable of causing damage not only to the ecosystem they have invaded but also to human economy and health.

Examples of industries that may be threatened by invasive species include but are certainly not limited to forestry, agriculture and aquaculture.

According to Wikipedia, it is estimated that over $138 billion is spent annually in the United States alone on damage and control costs.

Members of the Environmental Club focused much of their effort this Sunday on the removal of the wildly growing Elaeagnus angustifolia, commonly referred to as Russian olives.

Russian olives are thorny shrubs that can grow up to seven meters in height.

The shrubs have the capability of fixing nitrogen in their roots, allowing them to thrive even in very poor soil.

Their olives are sought out by a wide variety of bird species, which spread the seeds after digesting the olives.

The nitrogen-fixing capability and the attractiveness to birds are two contributing factors that enable Russian olives to thrive and out-compete wild, native vegetation.

Volunteers cut saplings and sawed down larger shrubs before treating the small stumps with a miniscule amount of chemicals toxic to the plants, preventing their regrowth.

Members of Ozone House and Environmental Club have had a longstanding relationship with Hoag and Ovington.

Hoag and Ovington have affectionately named one of their designated trails the “Union Trail.”

In addition to clearing the area of the Russian olives, volunteers cleared the pathway of the Union Trail in order to make it more accessible to visitors.

Another group of Union students staked “No Hunting” signs along the edge of the property in an effort to keep illegal hunters out of the area of the nature preserve.

Environmental Club has already vowed to make another trip to Dionondehowa this upcoming spring, and members are enthusiastically looking forward to the opportunity to return.

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