Invasive trees-----myth or reality

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by MichaelU, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. MichaelU

    MichaelU New Member

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    Hola,

    would very much appreciate if someone could give me some hints about scientific literature/web sites which deal with the issue of so-called "invasive trees". Looks like a big issue between practitioners of permaculture and conservationists.

    We bought land next to a natural reserve and there are some people who don't want us to plant anything appearing on the list of invasive plants, which means quite a lot of the nitrogen fixers which are recommended by Permaculture literature.

    Any comments are welcome

    Gracias

    MichaelU
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Michaelu and welcome,
    Yes, a big issue fraught with special interests and unrealistic expectations. There is a book, "Beyond the War on Invasive Species" that attempts to peel back the propaganda and calmly examine the subject. You can read a review here: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-07-11/beyond-the-war-on-invasive-species-review
    An interview with the author, Tao Orion: https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/interview-tao-orion-author-beyond-war-invasive-species

    Also some articles from the PRI news page:
    http://permaculturenews.org/2012/02/16/invasive-trees-in-colorado-part-i/
    http://permaculturenews.org/2013/11/12/weeds-wild-nature-permaculture-perspective/
     
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  3. MichaelU

    MichaelU New Member

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    Hello Bill,

    thanks for your comment.

    I am going to study the subject as much as I can, since it seems to create quite some waves here were we live.

    Well, I am not a scientist, more a "hands on" person. I feel very much connected to nature and follow an intuitive feeling, which tells me that certain trees which appear on the list of "invasive species" are actually natures tools to heal herself from the damages caused by humans and their unsustainable activities. So far I do not believe that these trees would cause regression instead of helping evolution to go on to the next higher plane of manifestation. I am quite surprised by coming to know about the huge efforts made "to combat" so-called "invasive trees" and that's why I hope to get some more, up-to-date information about this seemingly very hot subject.

    Saludos

    MichaelU
     
  4. Topher

    Topher Junior Member

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    To demonstrate the level to which the lunacy can go, our local state government website has a list of invasive species, one of which was described as growing in ecosystem niches where ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE grows. The recommendation was to spray with round-up. I kid you not.

    Thank you kindly.
     
  5. MichaelU

    MichaelU New Member

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    Bill, the articles you were recommending confirm exactly the intuition I have about the subject of invasive trees. Yet, it could need some more scientific data, i.e. studies that clearly show that certain trees actually help evolution/biodiversity instead of threatening the ecosystems where they start to naturalize.
     
  6. Fred

    Fred New Member

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    Sure it is reality, but I see it not as that of a problem rather a natural sucession process.
    I see Europe since the last ice-age an interesting study object.Trees in middle of Europe were diminished between the glaciers from north and south from the alps. When climate turned warmer, One species after anoter came back. In the pollen-analysis diagram it is visible that each new species started with a peak (invasive phase), and then declined to a moderate average value.
    This is teh succesion reconstructed in the sediments of a lake (called Buchensee close to lake constance - article in german)

    [​IMG]

    I think birch (Birke - betula) ist 2 Peaks because of different species: Betula nana & betula pubescens / betula pendula
    Alder (Erle) is an exception because it's nice is conected to river siedes.
    Oaks (Eiche) was promoted in the middle ages from human activity for forage (later peak)
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
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  7. MichaelU

    MichaelU New Member

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    @Fred:

    danke fuer deinen Hinweis (Translation into english: Thanks for the hint). My feeling is also that each species will find it's balance after an initial period. All the genetic information needed for evolution to continue towards more complex creations, towards a higher harmony, is certainly present in the soil itself.

    with all the information at hand it is a real art to sort out which factors and parameters to apply to come to a sensible conclusion about this topic.........let me try to formulate more precisely what I would like to get feedback about:

    on the one side there is the attitude to use trees which are labeled as "invasive" to support the creation of an ecosystem that may provide many resources for animals and human beings alike and on the other side there is a strong opposition to that approach, stating that these trees might destroy the surrounding existing "aboriginal" ecosystems.

    At this moment I find myself confronted with the issue and though I feel more resonance with the approach of using pioneer trees which are labeled as "invasive", I feel the need to gather further information about the subject.
    Right now it looks like I can only study as much as possible about every individual tree and it's known impact on the environment. Unfortunately that takes a lot of time and I hope to find essential information as fast as possible, since spring has started and trees want to be planted. So any hint about the subject is welcome.
     
  8. Fred

    Fred New Member

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    Studying the legal situation carefully might be more helpful in your Situation. Beeing close to a nature reservate is a delicate situation. Where I live for each reservation there is a legal act that describes what in particular is proteced on this site an what is prohibited (found on the internet site of the local state agency). This is a useful information to collaborate with the officals. When you incorporate some features promoting this species this might help to do some social permaculture to enhance the relations and thus avoid lot of trouble with friendly talks to avoid later stress with each other.
     
  9. Anabel

    Anabel New Member

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    [/QUOTE] ...big issue between practitioners of permaculture and conservationists.....there are some people who don't want us to plant anything appearing on the list of invasive plants, which means quite a lot of the nitrogen fixers which are recommended by Permaculture literature[/QUOTE]

    This thread is a few months old so I hope the issue hasn't escalated over winter...

    I'm pretty new to permaculture, so not an expert but have been reading semi-intensively for a few months. It worries me terribly that in a world of economic rationalism world-saving ideologies like conservation and permaculture are positioned to compete. This destroys the possibility of sucess for either party.

    As far as I can see, the base values of permaculture are about working with what's there and creating a sustainable ecosystem. I assume you bought near the reserve because you love nature. You don't tell us how large or sucessful a reserve it is, but even tiny struggling spaces (I live in sydney where small parks along rivers provide refuge for native species - fauna as well as flora - outcompeted elsewhere in an urban environment) are fragile living ecosystems where a small change can have a flow-on effect for almost every part of the system.

    Permaculture is not the reproduction of a particular garden, but an adaptable set of ideas for transforming what you have at hand. What works in one garden, won't somewhere else. ( and so much of the literature seems to reflect American flora and conditions). It seems to me that if biodiversity is a grounding permaculture value, then practitioners of permaculture have a responsibility to promote this everywhere - not just in their own gardens. The alternative is being as willfully ignorant as the people who think changing their lightbulbs and recycling newspapers entitles them to ignore the invisible environmental and human costs of a consumer-driven lifestyle.

    It's a very Western way of thinking to assume that because something is good for our home or family we don't need to consider the impact elsewhere. Some people, companies and governments even take it a step further and invent reasons that absolve us of responsibilty to our local and global communities (eg invasive species = evolution in progress, which may be true but doesn't make it something we should encourage).

    Sorry - enough ranting.

    The different roles in a permaculture garden ate modeled on the roles of plants in most ecosystems. In your situation I would simply be asking myself what local plants could fill the same niche. Go for a walk with some local conservationists (who often have this kind of knowledge or know someone who does) and find out. What kinds of trees form the canopy in the reserve? What are the indigenous nitrogen-fixers in your area? What vines can you see? What groundcover? What fungi? What grows in which microclimates? Which sides of slopes?Does anyone forage nearby? What new foods are growing in your reserve already? All of these can co tributes new ways of thinking about your garden. How could these be incorporated into your plan?

    This entails much more research than just getting recommendations of plants that work elsewhere, but I imagine the long-term result would be much more satisfying - imagine building a garden which complimented rather than competed with the reserve. What if, for some species in your garden, one of the purposes was to preserve a rare or threatened species or to provide food for local fauna rather than for yourself?

    And none of these would oblige you to spend time trying to take responsibility for eradicating escaped plants invading the reserve.

    Another thing to think about is the way in which invasive plants reproduce and how you might mitigate their spread. For instance, blackberries are a serious problem in Australia and are frequently controlled with herbicides and problematic biological soluions (rust fungi spores) but I know someone who grows them near the bush in pots (to keep invasive roots confined) under nets (to keep fauna from potentially spreading seeds). I'm ambivalent about how responsible this is, but she also does bush regeneration which includes establishing quick winter-growing native groundcover in newly cleared areas which helps prevent blackberries and other pests invading. I'm not sure who cultivates these plants but that's something else you might look into.

    Any of these solutions, gets you working with rather than creating conflict with what are ultimately people who share common values with you. Find out about the indigenous permaculture instead of simply finding literature that absolves you of environmental responsibility (please read it, it's really interesting, but be a critical reader - some paper fall into the thesis of "they're polluting it with pesticides so it's ok if I pollute it naturally" or "they're not confronting the cause of the problem so who cares if I add to it").

    Dialogue is always a good way forward. Who knows, you might even coopt some conservationists into the permaculture community once they find out how much your core values overlap!

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
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  10. MichaelU

    MichaelU New Member

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    Dear Anabel,

    amazing how connected everything is! It is certainly not a coincidence that your comment appears just now when we have a woman visiting wo learned directly from Bill Mollison and has the only permaculture insititute (at least as far as I know) in the country. I appreciate her views/suggestions/recommendations much more than anything else I find in written books, videos or get told from people who simply do not "walk their talk" respectively live in the abstract world of hypotheses instead of going "out onto the field" in order to make their own experiences. Of course, we spoke also about the issue of invasive plants.

    [/QUOTE] It worries me terribly that in a world of economic rationalism world-saving ideologies like conservation and permaculture are positioned to compete. This destroys the possibility of sucess for either party.[/QUOTE]

    Yes, I find that also very shocking, especially if an organization like the UN which basically proclaims to exist in order to help abolishing hunger, war and environmental destruction takes the same standpoint as conservationalists regarding the potential danger of invasive plants. Yet, I wouldn't say that it destroy the possibility of success, since there are many thousands (including our group) who experiment with permaculture methods and do have success. there is just a huge potential of collaboration which is stuck in differences like the issue about invasive plants and cannot unfold unless these discrepancies are solved/dissolved.

    [/QUOTE] I assume you bought near the reserve because you love nature. You don't tell us how large or sucessful a reserve it is [/QUOTE]
    Yes, we are deeply in love with nature, whatsoever action supports biodiversity and fertility is the way. It is an everyday learning process, for sure. Well, the reserve is about 4500ha big (or small) and I cannot say much about it's "success".......how to define success for a natural reserve?

    That's a very good point, something I have been busy with for quite some time. That's also basically what gave me the impulse to start this thread here.....I was asking a southamerican indigenous shaman about that and he responded me that it is all about intention. To see clearly what intention is behind an action......is it only for the benefit of an individual, a group of people (family, community etc.) or does it inlcude a bigger picture, means the benefit (or positive effect) for the whole ecosystem one is part of, eventually the whole planet.
    Since then, as good as I can, I am considering the potential impact of our actions (particularly the introduction of new species) on the whole ecosystem and act from there.

    I am certainly doing that. it simply takes quite a lot of time and the more I learn, the more local plants we are indeed using. Still, up to now I very much like the strategy to interplant locals and so-called "exotic plants". looks like they can get very well along with each other.

    I really do not see myself "competing" with the reserve. All what happens is that we do not go along with the very rigid ideologies of the local ranger.

    We offered this already several times to the same local ranger. So far no response.

    Yes, it is happening. We mainly use the chop and drop method trimming the branches who produce flowers and so far works well. Weinvasive plants" who clearly do not grow as well as they potentially could in a more favorable environment.

    I would wish for that. For a (creative) dialogue it needs both parties to be open to each other. So far I haven't seen this openness, but I keep the option open ;-).

    Thank you for sharing your reflections.

    May you enjoy your life being in harmony with nature!

    Michael
     
  11. Daron Williams

    Daron Williams New Member

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    I come from two views on this - on one hand I'm a restoration ecologist and I run a restoration program but I also own a small homestead and have been studying permaculture for most of my life.In most situations these two worlds really fit nicely together with little conflict. My restoration work incorporates permaculture and my homestead incorporates restoration. The issue of invasive plants is one area where there is a conflict.

    Many of my colleagues in environmental restoration use only native plants. A lot of what we do is remove invasive plants and replace them with natives. But then I see some of my permaculture friends wanting to plant some of the same plants that I'm trying to remove. This is where conflict can happen - and sometimes it is even with myself since I can be tempted to plant invasive plants when I see a strong benefit. One example that I'm still debating about is black locust. I have not planted it but I'm tempted to plant and coppice it for firewood and small lumber projects. Many of my restoration colleagues would not be happy with me if I did.

    At times I feel that my restoration colleagues can be a bit too pure in their aims of removing invasive plants. For one there is no good definition of what is invasive. In my area we use the term noxious weed because it has a legal definition in Washington State. Plants that are classified as noxious are then further broken down by severity. Very few make it to the list of being legally required to remove. Most are just are not recommended for planting and are recommended to remove if possible. There are a number of noxious plants that I have spent time removing that I really don't think were causing any issues but I needed to remove due to requirements from my funding sources.

    But it is not just my restoration colleagues that I feel are being too pure. I also think the permaculture community can be guilty of this too. I hear and read statements about nature filling the niche in the way it thinks is best. Or other similar statements. But this ignores several factors that make me feel that this sort of statement is too simplistic.

    First, many non-native plants do not have a lot of pests outside of their native range. Generalist species that can eat or use a range of plants may use them but a lot of species rely on one or just a few specific native plants and will not go for the non-native ones. Think of the monarch butterfly and its dependence on milkweed plants for example. There are many other species of insects that have similar and even more restrictive needs. This results in a situation where a non-native plants has less potential pests then a native competitor. Potentially, this could give the non-native an advantage - for example scotch broom seeds are only rarely eaten by native wildlife which means a higher percentage of its seeds survive then you would see in its native range. This also means that non-native plants tend to only support generalist species as opposed to native plants which will likely support the generalists and a specific group of "picky" species.

    Second, many of these non-native plants were transported from one area to another by humans. This rapid movement of species creates a situation where the local environment does not have time to adapt and evolve to include the invasive plant. While eventually a balance will be reached we have thrown the local environment into an unbalanced state that may take generations to be resolved naturally and that is only if we stop our disturbance of the area. Often in nature it is the rate of change not the change itself can causes the issue. For example climate has always changed but it is the rate of change happening now that is the cause for concern.

    Third, the non-native plants may fill a niche in such a way that slows down the natural succession. For example, in my area red alder, ceanothus, cascara, Douglas fir, etc. were the common early succession forest species. After say a fire red alder and ceanothus and others would come in and start forming a canopy with a diverse subcanopy, shrub layer and herbaceous layer. Overtime more shade tolerant species such as red cedar and western hemlock would come in and slowly replace the early succession species. Many of these native early succession species are nitrogen fixers (lupine, clover, red alder, ceanothus, etc.).

    Today in my area disturbed sites are often filled by scotch broom and Himalayan blackberries which creates a dense shrub layer and eventually a short canopy (14-20 feet). Often time these are dense enough that the ground is fully shaded out and the native early succession species that need sunlight can't get established. Eventually, shade tolerant species might move in but instead of growing under a tall canopy created by Douglas firs, red alder, big leaf maple, etc. they have to grow up through a very dense and low shrub layer. This is a very different habitat and in my own experience I have not seen red cedar and other later succession species growing up through dense scotch broom or Himalayan blackberry patches. In addition, scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry do not create nurse logs / large woody debris that plants like the native red huckleberry and western hemlock rely on. You get the nitrogen boom from scotch broom but not the carbon boom - while red alder can provide both and give room for late succession species to grow.

    On one of my restoration site we went through and removed all the scotch broom and large Himalayan blackberry patches. In the three years that have followed since I did that work we have seen huge growth of native plants and the diversity has increased dramatically. The scotch broom likely released nitrogen when we removed them so that helped but it has been the increase in diversity that really stood out to me. The site is still in an early succession state but now instead of scotch broom we are seeing alder, cascara, Douglas fir, shore pine, and many other species filling in the space. Due to the size of the site we were unable to get to all the scotch broom. In the areas where we have not removed the scotch broom we are not seeing the increase in diversity. It is likely that the area with no scotch broom will support more wildlife than before.

    But I also get the fact that many areas are so heavily disturbed that it may be difficult for native plants to get established on them. Often the native plants evolved for an environment that was so different than the one we now have that it may be unrealistic to expect the natural succession pattern to take place with natives only. In addition, natural disturbance cycles are now often broken. For example ceanothus and other species need fire for their seeds to germinate but now we often stop fires when we can. So is there any possibility of ceanothus filling its niche of being an early succession nitrogen fixing shrub without fire?

    So how do I balance these issues on my own property? For myself I first look at the niche I'm trying to fill by planting a plant and I ask myself what does that plant need to produce for my system (mulch, nitrogen, fruit, tuber, animal fodder, etc.). Once I have a clear understanding what I need the plant to do I then ask myself a series of questions.
    1. What permaculture zone is the planting going to happen in?
    2. Is there a native plant that can meet what I need the plant to do?
    3. If not what is the closest non-native plant in terms of geographic location that will meet my systems needs?
    4. Is this plant likely to form a monoculture or spread beyond my system?
    The first question reminds me to think about the zone I'm planting in. The higher the zone then the more likely I am to only plant native plants. Since I will be visiting the higher zones less often and these zones are closer to a "natural" state this makes me lean towards native plants in these zones.

    The second question can be hard to answer due to the need to know and understand the native species in your area. Researching how first nation people used native plants can tell you a lot about the potential uses for native plants in your area. If a native plant can meet my systems needs then I will always choose it over a non-native plant. As a restoration ecologist I have learned a lot about the native plants in my area but there is still a ton for me to learn.

    The third question addresses the issue with transporting species of plants from far away to my site. I have noticed is that in the permaculture community a few plants get suggested all the time. This can lead to a food forest grown in the Pacific Northwest in the USA, a food forest grown in New England in the USA, and a food forest grown in England in the UK all looking very similar with the same basic mix of core species. While the climate is similar in each of these areas I think each food forest should have its own unique mix of species. There will be some overlap but they should also be distinctive in my view. Choosing plant species that are naturally located not far from your site can ensure that your system takes on a distinct regional and local style/feel/etc. This is less of a jump from the natural rate of change and I believe will result in a more resilient system.

    If I reach the fourth question that means that I'm not going with a native plant. Also, it is likely that the plant is not from an area close to my site. In this specific case I try to determine if the plant I'm considering will form a monoculture and if it will spread beyond my property. Even if I know I can control it through regular management on my own property if it is likely to spread off my site and is likely to form a monoculture I don't consider it to be responsible to plant it.

    In my designs I also make space for native plants in all my zones. I want to support as diverse of a population of species as possible since I fully believe that this will create a much more resilient system.
     
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  12. AnonymousAnomalous1

    AnonymousAnomalous1 New Member

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    In the strictest technical sense, Invasive Species can be a major problem. While it may not be as true with trees as it is with wildlife ... or at least not as prevalent, there are certain trees that, if not excluded altogether, do need to be heavily and properly managed. Having seen the destruction in Region two of the Philippines throughout the Quezon Province mountains, there is a need for concern, even if it need not always reach a fevered pitch.

    In this case, the Paulownia Trees, known locally as sa cahoy ng buhay or the tree of life were used for the reforestation efforts. However, they were just planted and left to grow on their own. Given their prolific growth rate, it did not take very long for them to begin destroying entire ecosystems. When trees with such a prolific rate of growth are in use, it would seem that a modicum of caution would be in good order.

    I have to admit however, that I had never considered this in regards to the smaller ground cover, most notably the nitrogen fixing levels or ground layers. That definitely is an area that I would have to look into further.
     

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