Cold weather activities: sharing invasive species data

The early November cold snap and snow barrage slowed down my outdoor work last week, so I sat down to start the winter activity of data entry and updating records. Doesn’t sound as exciting as chopping away at buckthorn or ripping out garlic mustard with your bare hands, but keeping good records of invasive species locations helps us efficiently find and treat patches each year.

We collect information on the location, area, and density of invasive plant species during the growing season using GPS units and enter it into our Geographic Information System (GIS). We use the  data ourselves at Oakland Township Parks, but I believe that sharing this information can help fight invasive species not just in Oakland Township, but in Oakland County, Michigan, the Upper Great Lakes, and throughout the US. So I registered for an account with the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) and worked with them to upload 1657 records of invasive species from our parks in Oakland Township. Their website states that “The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) is a regional data aggregation effort to develop and provide an early detection and rapid response (EDRR) resource for invasive species in the Midwest region of the United States.” By catching invasive species early, control measures are much more cost effective and have a better chance of success (see this earlier post to learn more). We only have patchy records for most of our invasive species because they are nearly ubiquitous throughout the parks (for example, glossy buckthorn and autumn olive). Two species that we have fairly complete coverage of include garlic mustard and Phragmites, fairly recent arrivals in the parks.

Garlic Mustard

Most of those records were garlic mustard (1315 records) that resulted from stewardship staff combing parks each spring to locate patches of this invasive plant. The map below shows the distribution of the garlic mustard records in Michigan. These maps probably reflect two things: 1) the actual occurrence of the species and 2) monitoring effort. It is hard to separate the two, so I usually interpret these maps as just broad scale patterns of occurrence.

GarlicMustard_Michigan
Records of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in Michigan, according to the MISIN database. The larger the symbol, the more records from that region. This map indicates that the most garlic mustard is found in the Detroit area and just south of Traverse City.
GarlicMustard_OT
Zooming in to Oakland Township, you can see several “epicenters” of records for garlic mustard. These epicenters reflect the areas with high monitoring effort, our township parks.
GarlicMustard_BCNP
Zooming in again to Bear Creek Nature Park, we start to get an idea of the distribution of garlic mustard at a fine scale within the park. The map indicates that most of the garlic mustard is found on the south side of the park and around the borders. These are the areas that have a greater history of disturbance. The cluster of points in the bottom left is the wooded area next to the Paint Creek Heritage Area Wet Prairie along the Paint Creek Trail
GarlicMustard_BCNP_Details
MISIN is cool because you can click on a point and see details about the area and density of an invasive species patch. This patch in Bear Creek Nature Park has an area of less than 1000 feet, with patchy density.

To check out the distribution of garlic mustard in other Oakland Township parks, just head over to http://www.misin.msu.edu/. Click on “Browse data,” then search by species. You can also help us pull garlic mustard next spring. Check out the workdays at this link, and put them on your calendar!

The stewardship crew pulled lots of garlic mustard in 2014. Help us make 2015 even more successful!
The stewardship crew pulled lots of garlic mustard in 2014. Help us make 2015 even more successful!

Phragmites

Phragmites might be a terrible invasive species, but it is easy to spot! During August and September 2014 the stewardship crew treated 10.5 acres of Phragmites in Oakland Township parks. Those 10.5 acres represent all the Phragmites patches we had records for at the time (I found a few more since September), so our Phragmites records are fairly complete within our parks.

Phragmites in Oakland Township. Notice that the locations generally correspond to the township parks. The township parks probably don't have more Phragmites than the surrounding areas, but they have been surveyed more completely.
Phragmites in Oakland Township. Notice that the locations generally correspond to the township parks. The township parks probably don’t have more Phragmites than the surrounding areas, but they have been surveyed more completely.
Gallagher Creek Park has some of our largest Phragmites patches. This map shows the distribution of those patches in the park.
Gallagher Creek Park has some of our largest Phragmites patches. This map shows the distribution of those patches in the park.

We can’t target invasive species for treatment unless we know that they exist! If you’d like to help us get complete records of Phragmites in Oakland Township, download the free MISIN app for your smart phone. It’s easy to use, and it only takes a few minutes to add a point. To make it even better, Phragmites is easy to see in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. Put your smartphone to work today to help our parks!

Phragmites along Mead Rd. at O'Connor Nature Park.
Phragmites along Mead Rd. at O’Connor Nature Park in summer 2014. With persistent treatment, we hope that this patch will be gone in a few years.

About Ben VanderWeide

I am the Natural Areas Stewardship Manager for Oakland Township Parks and Recreation in southeast Michigan. I have a doctorate in biology (focused on plant ecology) and I am passionate about protecting and managing natural areas.

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