Fighting Buckthorn: See how local volunteers fight back against invasive species.Chicago news

Shedd Aquarium biologist Melissa Youngquist (l) and volunteer Beth Hertzfeld work together to defeat buckthorn. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

On the map Scorky Lagoons It looks like an oasis of green and blue. But it can look fooled — not all greens are good.

Experts recognize signs of unwanted growth, where untrained eyes may see lush vegetation.

At the head of this particular forest, an invasive species called the European Crow Megu is the number one public enemy, blocking sunlight, swarming native plant species, and dense bushes that provide little benefit to wildlife. Produce.

It is a ripe place for recovery, the process of restoring the ecosystem to its natural balance.

So, on a calm, unseasonable morning in mid-December, a group of volunteers hosted by the Shedd Aquarium headed to this northern suburban forest, armed with a roper and a saw.

Their mission: Attack buckthorn. Chop it, snap it, and burn it.

Restoring a habitat turned out to be very similar to destroying it.

Volunteer Karen Gray-Keeler uses a cropper to cut buckthorn to size. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)Volunteer Karen Gray-Keeler uses a cropper to cut buckthorn to size. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Buckthorn is like an evil genius to take a little anthropomorphic freedom. Plants release toxins (emodins) from their seeds, leaves, bark and roots, killing or stunning other flora. This is a way to ensure the survival and exponential spread of the plant itself.

“It comes in and outperforms everything else. I don’t want that,” said Maggie Cooper, the conservation coordinator of the Shedd Aquarium. Shedd Aquarium has been holding monthly working days in the lagoon since 2019. Shed Action Days program. (Friends of the Chicago River have long been active in restoration in the lagoon. All efforts are being made in collaboration with the Cook County Forest Reserve.)

Be careful if the aquarium seems strangely suitable for reforestation work Emodin is associated with a decrease in amphibian populationsFrogs, salamanders, etc. by entering the food chain and preventing egg development and hatching.

Buckthorn said it is harmful to amphibians in another way Melissa Youngquist, Shed’s biologist. Frogs and salamanders rely on litter for shelter and hiding places, but buckthorn leaves decompose much faster than other trees. Therefore, when buckthorn dominates the forest, such as around the lagoon, there is little room for digging.

The good news is that the seeds have proven to be very sensitive to recovery efforts, Youngquist said. “If you give them quality habitat, they will come back,” she said.

After a brief introduction from Cooper, the volunteers embarked on a nasty 10-minute trek, a tool that carefully carried sharp end-downs according to Cooper’s instructions. According to Cooper, the ground is usually frozen rather than muddy swamps during this time.

They have reached clearing. There, the pre-team had already set off a small wildfire and was greeted by Nature Maintenance facilitator Christopher Ricardo.

“Whatever the size of the two fingers, the lopper will go through. Anything larger than that will have a hard time,” Ricardo said, lifting his fingers to show the proper width. “In the case of a saw … if you can turn your hand, you can take it down. When you truncate something, you own it. Cut out all the little branches, maybe 3-4 feet. Must be cut into sections. “

After that, about 20 volunteers were dispersed and divided into two teams. It’s a physical task, and people almost immediately began to strip.

“It’s good to go out, really sweat and really get dirty,” said Bethhertzfeld, who took a car from the neighborhood of Lincoln Square in Chicago on a work day.

Hertzfeld, who recently completed training for a master naturalist, said he first volunteered at the lagoon site two years ago and made remarkable progress.

“This was impassable,” she said of the liquidation. “The difference is strange. It’s very specific.”

It was newcomer Tyler Davis who worked with veterans like Hertzfeld. He lived in the neighborhood of Rogers Park and took advantage of the volunteer day benefits offered by his employer.

“I love the lagoon and have spent more time in the reserve since the pandemic,” Davis said. “I wanted to give back to a place where I enjoyed walking around. I was able to volunteer this light bulb moment in a place that was in my interest. It’s great to help maintain this. is.”

The key to preservation and restoration is to create an environment where more people have the same kind of inspiration as Davis, said Gary Morrissey, a longtime volunteer and retired educator.

“Before asking you to save the outdoors, you need to teach people to love the outdoors,” he said. “For those who have no experience with nature, we need to get them to enjoy nature and understand the need to maintain it.”

Longtime volunteers Gary Morrissey and Dan Goodwin have stird up a pile of burning buckthorn. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)Longtime volunteers Gary Morrissey and Dan Goodwin have stird up a pile of burning buckthorn. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Shed’s monthly working days in the lagoon are held Wednesday and Saturday, attracting 10 to 35 volunteers, Cooper said. You can modify your work to accommodate people of different ages and fitness levels, which is useful in all respects given the sheer size of the task at hand.

“The buckthorn grows and shrinks,” she said. “We have a 4-year-old child who picked up the leaves or can carry the branches.”

Beyond the physical aspects, working days have a powerful educational element, from introducing the concept of invasive species to people to explaining the benefits of healthy ecosystems.

“When Maggie (Cooper) was talking, I was wondering,’Is the invading tree affecting amphibians?'” Mona hacked buckthorn with her friend Esther Im. Ng said. “It’s interesting.”

Work does not stop during the winter, Cooper said, he has not yet canceled his work day due to the weather. When it snows, the forest feels magical, she said. In fact, she used to volunteer skiing there.

The volunteer is Dan Goodwin, who continued to burn a pile of brushes this December. “I got to know some great people, and we eat a lot,” Goodwin said.

Marshmallows came out, just like a signal. The morning ended with everyone gathering around something that felt like a campfire. It was S’more time.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]

Fighting Buckthorn: See how local volunteers fight back against invasive species.Chicago news

Source link Fighting Buckthorn: See how local volunteers fight back against invasive species.Chicago news

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