Georgia Invasives Case Study

Georgia Invasives Case Study

Invasive species are a concern all over the U.S. and all over the world. Some invasive species are well known such as Lionfish or Kudzu in parts of the U.S. However, there are a multitude of other invasive species that can be just as harmful to the surrounding ecosystem, even if they aren’t well known. It’s important to raise awareness of invasive species to help prevent their spread to new areas. This post covers three invasive species that can be found in the state of Georgia.

NOTE: All three species presented below have been identified in some quantity in Lullwater Preserve at Emory University.

Chinese Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata)

Lespedeza cuneata is a notoriously invasive perennial on the east coast of the United States, most often found in old fields or prairies (Schutzenhofer et al. 2009). The species was introduced from Asia deliberately in 1895 for use in erosion control and as a forage plant for wildlife (Schutzenhofer et al. 2009). The species became further widespread with the passing of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in 1977, which listed L. cuneata as one of the acceptable ground cover species for reclamation of old mining sites (Bauman et al. 2015).  Old mining sites are often unproductive landscapes and provide more value in spreading invasives than for colonizing native species (Bauman et al. 2015).

L. cuneata is a successful invader of a range of habitat types due to several characteristics that increase the tolerance of the species. The species has a high seed production rate and high dispersal potential, increasing in abundance more than 20 fold in a single year(Schutzenhofer et al. 2009, Kibis and Buyuktahtakin 2017).Another feature of its survival is the large seed bank created, in which seeds can survive for decades (Kibis and Buyuktahtakin 2017). Plants also have a heteromorphic flowering system, producing flowers that can reproduce asexually in addition to flowers that are insect pollinated, which helps to increase the chances of successful reproduction (Schutzenhofer et al. 2009). L. cuneataalso engages in several behaviors that promote its survival over similar native species, such as L. virgnica: these include, shading of other vegetation, allelopathy, resistance to herbivory, and a greater efficiency of light harvesting (Allred et al. 2010).

Approaches to management of L. cuneatadepend on a variety of factors, but in most cases, it is preferable to apply treatment within the first two years of establishment to prevent the building up a sizeable seed bank (Kibis and Buyuktahtakin 2017). The species is most vulnerable in the early stages of its life, but has low rates of natural herbivory in the wild and thrives in disturbed habitats, which makes management strategies such as plowing not useful (Schutzenhofer et al. 2009, Bauman et al. 2015). The most successful treatments are ones involving herbicide and frequent monitoring (Bauman et al. 2015).

Alligator Weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides)

             Aternanthera philoxeroidesis a perennial, clonal plant originally from South America that has spread as an invasive species across multiple countries, in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems (Wu et al. 2017b). Since it is so widespread, little is known about the exact time and origin of the species within the United States. The species can effectively spread from aquatic systems to terrestrial systems, which may have played a role in its introduction (Wu et al. 2017a).

A. philoxeroidesis a major threat to a number of ecosystems, especially rivers, waterways, wetlands and a number of crops ecosystems, in which it has been linked to declines in crop yields (Tanveer et al. 2018). The species is fast growing, doubling its growth in less than two months and forming dense masses of underground root systems (Tanveer et al. 2018). Aquatic systems are more vulnerable to invasion by A. philoxeroides,but climate change is likely to increase the spread of the species onto land and to higher latitudes (Wu et al. 2017a, Wu et al. 2017b). The species reproduces vegetatively with efficient dispersal via stem fragmentation, and its high genetic variability allows it to occupy a number of niches enhancing its survival (Tanveer et al. 2018).A. philoxeroides inhibits other species through allelopathy and a greater ability to photosynthesize and capture water (Wu et al. 2017b, Tanveer et al. 2018). Its clonal integration also increases its competitive ability against natives and other species present in the habitat (You et al. 2016).

Management practices of this species are numerous, widespread and costly. China alone spends $72 million per year to manage its spread (Tanveer et al. 2018). Practices include physical removal, such as excavating roots, chemical management through herbicide use over a number of years, and biological control(Tanveer et al. 2018). The beetle, Agasicles hygrophila, has been shown to be successful in managing A. philoxeroidesand is used as a management practice in many countries (Tanveer et al. 2018).

Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

             Vinca minor is an evergreen vine originating from parts of Eurasia (Schulz and Thelen 2000). It is an edge forest species that was commonly used as a decorative plant (Panasenko and Anishchenko 2018). This particular type of periwinkle was introduced at the end of the 19thcentury, especially for its use as ground cover and an edge species in parks and other green spaces(Panasenko and Anishchenko 2018).

V. minor spreads prolifically through vegetative propagation and can form extensive curtains of vines when not controlled (Panasenko and Anishchenko 2018). The species thrives best in forest ecosystems such as pine forests, where it has been shown to greatly reduce forest biodiversity (Panasenko and Anishchenko 2018). Unlike other plants, V. minor grows well in shady regions helping to increase its spread into established forest ecosystems (Tatina 2015). It has been shown to exhibit high allelopathy to the point of inhibiting seed germination of neighboring species, which has greatly aided its survival in otherwise highly diverse forest ecosystems (Panasenko and Anishchenko 2018).

As a relatively new invasive species that has yet to cause the widespread removal efforts of more imposing species such as lespedeza and alligator weed, there is limited research on the successful removal and management of V. minor. The management practice of combined cutting and herbicide applications has been shown to be moderately effective, but further research into more aggressive means of management will be necessary as this species continues to spread and threaten diversity in forest ecosystems (Schulz and Thelen 2000). Herbicide impacts on surrounding native species is a concern in the management of periwinkle (Tatina 2015).

Works Cited

Allred, B. W., S. D. Fuhlendorf, T. A. Monaco, and R. E. Will. 2010. Morphological and physiological traits in the success of the invasive plant Lespedeza cuneata. Biological Invasions 12:739-749.

Bauman, J. M., C. Cochran, J. Chapman, and K. Gilland. 2015. Plant community development following restoration treatments on a legacy reclaimed mine site. Ecological Engineering 83:521-528.

Kibis, E. Y., and I. E. Buyuktahtakin. 2017. Optimizing invasive species management: A mixed-integer linear programming approach. European Journal of Operational Research 259:308-321.

Panasenko, N. N., and L. N. Anishchenko. 2018. Influence of Invasive Plants Parthenocissus vitacea and Vinca minor on Biodiversity Indices of Forest Communities. Contemporary Problems of Ecology 11:614-623.

Schulz, K., and C. Thelen. 2000. Impact and control of Vinca minor L. in an Illinois forest preserve (USA). Natural Areas Journal 20:189-196.

Schutzenhofer, M. R., T. J. Valone, and T. M. Knight. 2009. Herbivory and population dynamics of invasive and native Lespedeza. Oecologia 161:57-66.

Tanveer, A., H. H. Ali, S. Manalil, A. Raza, and B. S. Chauhan. 2018. Eco-Biology and Management of Alligator Weed Alternanthera philoxeroides) (Mart.) Griseb. : a Review. Wetlands 38:1067-1079.

Tatina, R. 2015. Effects on Trillium recurvatum, a Michigan Threatened Species, of Applying Glyphosate to Control Vinca minor. Natural Areas Journal 35:465-467.

Wu, H., J. Carrillo, and J. Q. Ding. 2017a. Species diversity and environmental determinants of aquatic and terrestrial communities invaded by Alternanthera philoxeroides. Science of the Total Environment 581:666-675.

Wu, H., M. Ismail, and J. Q. Ding. 2017b. Global warming increases the interspecific competitiveness of the invasive plant alligator weed, Alternanthera philoxeroides. Science of the Total Environment 575:1415-1422.

You, W. H., C. M. Han, L. X. Fang, and D. L. Du. 2016. Propagule Pressure, Habitat Conditions and Clonal Integration Influence the Establishment and Growth of an Invasive Clonal Plant, Alternanthera philoxeroides. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:11.


The Climatic Arts

One of the greatest challenges of climate change is communication. How do we communicate the impacts of climate change? How can we make people recognize the severity of the situation? How can we present solutions is a positive light? How can we help people understand the complexities of the climate debate? 

While there is no one way to accomplish all of these goals, I experienced one creative approach this week- the intersection of climate and theatre. Theatre@Emory performed a series of short plays relating to climate change and its solutions as part ofthe worldwide initiative Climate Change Theatre Action, a collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Practice in the ArtsNoPassport Theatre Alliance, The Arctic CycleTheatre Without Borders, and York University.

All around the world, theatre groups performed short plays relating to this central theme:

Assume your audience knows as much as you do. Assume they are as concerned as you are. But they may not know what to do with this information and those concerns. So how can we turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?

What I found particularly interesting about the performances and how they related to this theme, was how they wove the ideas of climate change into each of the plays. None of them outwardly mentioned the issue, but because we were an interested and concerned audience we were able to follow the message of these plays. It would be interesting to see how a less interested or concerned audience would respond to plays such as these.

Overall, the plays were powerfully done, very engaging, and effectively drew you into the story.

The first play—Blue Puzzle by Clare Duffy, featuring Julia Byrne—really spoke to the condition of the world today, especially describing how the world is filled with so much me and not enough us. This was shown through the eyes of a mother trying to provide for her child, while grappling with the change occurring around her. The play ended with the powerful message that change is inevitable, but we can use this change to our advantage to save the planet and ourselves.

Another play titled Rubik’s Cube Solution—written by Sarena Parmar, and featuring Angela Jiang, Eliza Paprin, Colleen Carroll and Elizabeth Johnson—compared the problem of climate change to solving a Rubik’s Cube. This challenge was literally thrown at the characters in the play by a nameless, authoritarian figure who continued to discourage them throughout the play, and who represented all of the challenges that are posed to the climate change debate. This play presented climate change as an unsolvable problem that they were running out of time to solve; however, by working together and using each of their collective strengths, the characters end up finding a possible creative solution to the cube.

The last play—Gaia by Hiro Kanazawa, featuring Victoria Hood, Julia Byrne, and Joel Hines—was a very powerful piece and was wonderfully staged to take place outside instead of in the theatre, which added to the connection with the Earth that the play was trying to convey. It started off with a more negative and downward turning feel, highlighting the threats and challenges posed to nature (especially those by humans), but as the play went on a shift occurred in the positive direction and the play ended in an uplifting and positive manner about how problems could be remedied.

Overall, these performances were a creative way to approach the issue of climate change and present possible solutions in a unique and unexpected way, one that hopefully a wider audience may be able to appreciate and respond to.


Energy Be(a)ware!

energy \ˈe-nər-jē\ noun  1a. ability to be active. b. the physical or mental strength that allows you to do things.
 2a. natural enthusiasm and effort.
 3a. usable power that comes from heat, electricity, etc.

You can look up the definition of energy but that doesn’t mean you entirely understand what it is and what contributes to it. And I don’t mean energy from eating healthy or getting a good night of sleep. I am talking about definition 3a.

Do you know where the energy that powers your home comes from?

Are you aware of how much energy that load of laundry really uses?

If not, then now is the perfect time to learn!

Why? October is National Energy Awareness Month.

If you are one of those people who needs an excuse to get active in sustainability issues, use this time to challenge yourself to make a change going forward. It’s never too late to start saving energy!

More information of the designation of energy awareness month can be found here: https://www.nema.org/Policy/Energy/Efficiency/Pages/Energy-Awareness-Month.aspx

What is the point of Energy Awareness Month?

While there are many residential communities, college campuses, workspaces and others who are working hard to reduce their energy consumption, the world is still burning fossil fuels at astronomical rates to meet energy demands, which continue to increase steadily.

The U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population, yet it consumes 5x as much energy—nearly 25% of world energy usage.

People are aware of renewable energy. But when put to the task, it seems the everyday citizen views the battle with energy consumption as taking place outside of their reality. They are wrong—There are many ways for individuals to reduce their energy usage on a daily basis, and it isn’t that difficult to do.

Energy Awareness Month definitely promotes large-scale energy projects, but also serves to educate the everyday consumer and make energy awareness more accessible.

Quick energy use statistics

What effect do people have on energy usage? Check out these energy stats on common practices:

  • Energy used by devices left on standby—computers, printers,…—account for 5-10% of the total electricity used in residential homes, and contributes to about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
  • Only 5% of the power drawn by a phone charger is used to charge the phone. The other 95% is wasted when your phone is left plugged in.
  • Turning off unneeded lights could remove 376 lb of CO2 emissions per year. (Energy Saving Trust)
  • Lighting a typical office overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1,000 cups of tea. (The Carbon Trust)
  • 90% of the total energy used by a typical washing machine is used just to heat the water. (Energy Saving Trust) Cold water wash is the best way to do your laundry!

Other fun facts can be found here: http://www.environment.admin.cam.ac.uk/resource-bank/facts-figures

Who can be involved in Energy Awareness Month?

One of the goals of Energy Awareness month is to make energy consumption issues more accessible for common consumers so everyone can participate!

Whether you want to be a lone warrior for the energy cause or you want to put together a team of energy savers in your school, workplace or home. Energy Awareness Month is a great incentive for you!

Many places establish a calendar of events and efforts specifically for this month, but you can build off these ideas at any time of the year—for school community service projects, office team-building events, even your New Year’s resolutions.

Emory University held an energy competition (read about it below).

Even the White House is getting involved! Specifically for this month, the Obama administration organized several clean energy events. You can learn more about White House efforts here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/national-energy-awareness-month

Emory University- Campus efforts for Energy Awareness Month

Every year, Emory holds a competition during Energy Awareness Month to see who can reduce their energy consumption the most. Residence halls, classrooms and labs all participate in the competition, and for extra motivation, the grand prize is $1000! The competition setting is a fun way to get students involved and interested in energy issues. As the Sustainability Chair for my residence hall, I had many people asking me for tips on how they can reduce their energy consumption! By raising awareness now, we can work towards even more energy reduction in future campus events!

Another program for Emory students during Energy Awareness Month is No Power Hour, when dorms set a time for everyone to unplug their electronics and leave their residence hall to play games and socialize on the quad, all while saving energy! This gives students a fun example of ways they can reduce energy and is a very visible program to spread awareness throughout campus.

How can you decrease your energy consumption?

Hopefully, you have heard something here and want to get involved! Still not sure what you can do? Check out these helpful tips below:

  • Turn off your computer at night.
  • Unplug device chargers when not in use.
  • Adjust temperatures for air conditioning and heating when not at home.
  • Wash laundry when you have a full load, using cold water.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Run your dishwasher with a full load or wash them by hand.
  • Don’t leave water running unnecessarily.
  • Turn off lights when you leave the room.
  • Use natural light whenever possible.

Do you have a great idea of how to decrease energy consumption or spread energy awareness to those who might not know? Please share your ideas!  

Remember, it’s never too late to save energy… Start now!


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