Wild South is working on a project in Linville Gorge Wilderness to remove nonnative invasive plant species. We received a grant from TogetherGreen which is a grant program funded by Toyota and administered by the National Audubon Society. Wild South was one of 40 grant recipients across the country to do an innovative conservation project.
We are focusing our efforts on removing non-native invasive plants from the Wilderness area by engaging community volunteers, veterans, wilderness therapy programs, and other conservation organizations. This summer and fall we will be hosting day hikes and backpacking trips to manually remove various species. Each year the United States loses 1.7 million acres to the spread of invasive plants.Nonnative invasive plants disrupt the natural ecosystem of an area, and we are trying to reduce and eliminate this threat to Linville Gorge Wilderness.
Why Are Non-native Invasive Plants so Threatening?
Non-native invasive plants have characteristics such as fast growth, rapid reproduction, the ability to occuppy a variety of habitats, tolerance of a wide range of environmental conditions, and an association with humans. Compared to other threats to biodiversity, non-native invasive species rank second only to habitat destruction, such as forest conversion. In fact, introduced species are a greater threat to native biodiversity than pollution, land conversion, and disease combined.
There are currently more than ten different non-native species that have been found throughout the Linville Gorge Wilderness. However, there are three species that pose the most serious threat: Princess tree, Chinese silver grass and Mullen. These species are all prolific colonizers of disturbed areas, and the Linville Gorges high propensity for wild fire has made it especially susceptible to invasion. These species are threatening the Gorge’s ecosystems by crowding out native species, but hopefully, with the help of volunteers, we will be able to control these problem plants and keep them from spreading.
What Are We Protecting?
Federally Listed Species: The Linville Gorge is a unique place due to both its geography as well as its host of endemic species. Two such species are Mountain Golden Heather and Heller’s Blazing Star, which can only be found in the Gorge and a few other isolated areas in Western North Carolina, and both of them have been federally listed for protection due to their increasing rarity.
Mountain Golden Heather and Heller’s Blazing Star are fire dependent species and have suffered declines due to habitat loss as a result of fire suppression and encroachment from non-native invaders. In an effort to preserve these two beautiful plants, Wild South has partnered with the Forest service to remove invasives from these species’ habitat and analyze the viability protecting them through the use of prescribed fires.
What Can You Do to Help? Glad You Asked!! We are recruiting volunteers just like you to do trail work in this beautiful wilderness. We ask that you are physically fit enough to hike several miles on steep terrain and prepared to be outside in all weather condiditons. We will be announcing volunteer days every couple of weeks- sign up on our website for a GORGEous day!!!