Pick Your Battles With Invasive Shrubs

Multiflora rose

Think before you raze a stand of autumn olive, multiflora rose, or buckthorn, urged John Litvatis of the University of New Hampshire at a well-attended session at the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference this week.

For over a decade, most wildlife management agencies have had a policy of removing invasive species whenever they are found. Sometimes, though, the removal can do more harm than good. For example, the prickly tangle created by a stand of multiflora rose provides good habitat for the imperiled New England cottontail. Take away the rose bushes, and the cottontails might be quickly gobbled by predators.

If there was nothing but multiflora rose as far as the eye could see, though, then that monoculture would almost certainly need to be restored to some sort of balance, Litvatis said. But in many cases the aggressive — and reflexive — suppression of invasive shrubs may not be necessary.

Litvatis knew he was suggesting something against accepted wisdom, so he repeated that he was not advocating planting invasive species, just a more thoughtful approach to their removal, including the idea that sometimes it is best to leave things alone.

Litvatis flashed a slide with the names of other biologists in the Northeast who are with him in urging a more thoughtful approach to the management of invasive species. The audience stayed well into the break after the session, and not a single commenter attacked the idea or dismissed it out of hand. Food for thought.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. JoJan


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