Ecological restoration is both an art and a newly emerging science. We are constantly reminded of how little we know about how nature works, yet we must act now in order to prevent many problems from becoming unmanageable. Being forced into action armed with so little knowledge can be frustrating indeed. However, if we are patient observers and empty our minds of preconceived ideas, the land will tell us what it needs.
When the Wildlands Restoration Team was formed in 1990, I expected much of our energy to be focused on erosion control work and replanting damaged areas with native species. However, it soon became apparent that the overwhelming threat to the preservation of biological diversity here, as in many places, is the threat posed by the rapidly expanding blight of invasive non-native plant species.
Extensive hiking over the 50,000 + acres in state park lands here revealed vast infestations of broom, pampas grass, Eucalyptus, vinca, English ivy, and many others. Having left behind the checks and balances created by eons of evolution in their former homes, these newcomers easily out compete native species. They spread rapidly, forming monocultures which choke out and provide less habitat value for native species. For instance, French broom has over seventy species of insects which keep it in check in its native environment. Not one of these insects is found here. It could take thousands of years for nature to evolve predators for each new invasive species. In that amount of time, countless interdependent native species may be lost, reducing biodiversity and forever altering the course of evolution. We could be left with a planet severely compromised in its ability to provide sustenance for all life.
I found myself scrambling to devise the most effective ways to achieve control of these expanding infestations with a small band of volunteers, -without resorting to the use of chemicals. I soon learned that each species required a unique methodology; and that both tools and techniques must evolve continuously, in response to constantly changing site conditions.
One of the biggest surprises has been how quickly the native vegetation re-establishes itself here. The native seed bank had been there all along, remaining dormant until the invasive species was removed. Nature just needed a little help from the same species which introduced the problem in the first place: Us.
The knowledge that we have gained through the years by trial and error has now been honed to a fine edge. We are responding to an increasing number of requests to share this knowledge with many others that have since joined in the constantly growing battle to control these invaders. See the HOW page and "A Plague of Plants" (Acrobat PDF - 587K) for information on our control methods and tools.
-Ken Moore Founder, Wildlands Restoration Team