UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – As the weather warms up and plants spring to life, native species aren’t the only things beginning to bloom, invasive plants, fish and bugs remain an issue in Michigan.
Sigrid Resh is a research assistant professor at MTU in the college of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, her recent research has focused on invasive species and she is also the coordinator for the Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area. Resh says
“An invasive species is a species that’s not native to the particular place on a landscape that you’re at and is likely the cause of harm to the environment, to the economy or to human health,” said Resh.
Species that are common in KISMA’s landscape according to Resh are Japanese barberry, common buckthorn, glossy buckthorn, autumn olive, Japanese knotweed, giant knotweed, invasive phragmites, reed canary grass, purple loosestrife.
Similar species of plants are prevalent in the Eastern U.P., including some that are on the Michigan watch list, but some are spreading more than others Michael Hindy, Three Shores CISMA program coordinator, says some species they’ve been able to slow the spread of.
“Some of the plants that we’re dealing with over here, Japanese knotweed is a big one it’s pretty widespread in the Sault Ste. Marie area and it’s starting to spread through the Eastern U.P. as well, garlic mustard first showed up not too long ago in our region but that’s been starting to spread as well and we’re trying to keep a hand on that,” said Hindy. “Wild parsnip is pretty common in our roadsides and that’s a pretty nasty one because like I mentioned earlier it’s the one that causes those nasty burns that you really don’t want to deal with, invasive phragmites has been going down the coordinator before me has been doing a lot of great work on that but there’s still some invasive phragmites in our region.”
Elise Desjarlais, the program coordinator for Lake 2 Lake CISMA, says right now they’re focusing on the spread of garlic mustard.
“It’s one of the first ones that pops up this time of year so now hopefully that the snow is done flying that is one that we focus on May usually all the way to the beginning or middle of June,” said Desjarlais. “And then by that time we have a couple of our other priority species starting to get up out of the ground and that would include things like Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife is another one that we’re looking out for, wild parsnip is another one, and so those ones just take a little bit longer to get going.”
Resh says to know what the woody invasives look like and pull them if you see them while out hiking the trails. When the plants are small they are easier to pull and they aren’t producing seed yet.
“They’re impacting more than just the plants that grow in that landscape, they’re impacting all the animals, and then ultimately if we want to be very selfish about it they’re impacting humans and none of us are going to be able to live if we can’t grow food that require pollinators that have been wiped out from the landscape,” said Resh.
Preventing the spread of invasives by choosing to plant native species is one way to stop the spread of invasive species according to Resh.
“One of the things that people should know is that they can take preventative action personally to stop the spread of invasives and not bring those in,” said Resh. “So for instance if you’re at a nursery and you want to pick species that would help with our native wildlife and help with the idea of rebuilding our pollinator species and providing habitat for our natives then have a list of native species that you want to plant and demand those from your nursery and don’t buy the barberries and don’t buy the purple loosestrifes and don’t buy the valerians and the bouncing bets that are available at the nursery because those are what’s going to escape into the landscape and change our native populations.”
Hindy says you can also prevent spread by cleaning up before going from one trail or waterway to another.
“The biggest one I always like to say is, everyone likes a clean roommate and the environment is the same way so as often as you can try to clean your equipment whether that be your boots or if you’re using a boat or a kayak or something out on our waters try to clean it off,” said Hindy. “Clean everything that you can see off of it if it’s, again boat or kayak, then drain it first to make sure you’re getting all that bilge water that could be carrying seeds as well and then drying it before you’re moving to another water station and same thing with seeds if you can clean your boots off before you go somewhere else that’s a huge thing.”
There are ways to get involved with local invasive species management areas. Hindy says reporting an invasive species to the local CISMA is a great way to help along with reporting it to the state or to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network. Three Shores CISMA takes volunteers for workdays to remove invasive species. Resh says KISMA works with volunteers on some of their projects as well.
“The Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area, which I am the coordinator of, arranges workdays, we do outreach, and we are actually trying to pull together as many community members as we can to understand the impacts of invasive species and to help us remove them and bring back the natural areas to being less invaded,” said Resh.
Currently she is working with students to plant trees that will mitigate spread of Emerald Ash Borer.
“These students are taking all of these bare-root seedlings that we bought of all those species and putting them in pots and then we will grow them through the summer, this increases their survival rate when we plant them in the fall so we have a lot less turnover of our trees,” said Resh. “Then we can put them in the landscape and they’re ready to take off for the next spring.”
Desjarlais says one of their projects in the spring is hand-pulling garlic mustard out of the ground.
“For garlic mustard we’re just doing a manual hand pull out of the ground its actually a really easy plant to get out of the ground by simply pulling it you always want to make sure you’re getting all of that root out of the ground though because it can if you leave it in the ground make new plants,” said Desjarlais.
Resh says in the fall it’s likely they will take some community help to plant the trees. Lake to Lake CISMA will accept volunteers for workdays again when they can do so safely with COVID-19 precautions in place.