Is forest restoration the new frontier? If you ask any of the stewards painstakingly removing harmful invasive species from our beautiful, diverse ecosystems here at Bernheim, the answer is yes. Invasive species aren’t an established contributor in our local environs, meaning that our native species may not be adapted to make use of them or be adapted to compete with them.
Diversity is key to a healthy natural forest, and some invasive species threaten this diversity just by spreading seeds. Japanese Stiltgrass, or Microstegium Vimineum, was introduced when China used these dried plants as a soft, springy packaging material for shipping, and the first sighting in the United States was in Tennessee in 1919. This particular plant has a higher silicate content that native deer like to eat, meaning that it spreads without control and crowds out native plants. The seeds easily wash downhill in the rain, or stick to animals and vehicles.
This year, Stiltgrass seeds have washed close enough to some rare and fragile locations that human intervention is urgently required to save and maintain these unique ecosystems. Our forest stewards are just the right heroes to answer this call to restore and keep these treasures of our ecosystem safe.