We have all seen the misshaped, strange looking trees that have been trimmed because they intrude power lines.
Because they remind Toledo Area Metroparks land management supervisor Tim Gallaher of similar-shaped sculptured Japanese trees, he nicknames those mutilated trees by the roadside “Bonsai” trees.
The only problem is, after they are cut by the utility companies, the Metroparks have to deal with what is left. Gallaher says most die because they have been severely stressed by the trimming, and now they have to be replaced around the perimeter of the park.
“It would make a lot more sense to remove them,” Gallaher said. “An option would be to plant some tree, like a dogwood, that would only grow so high that could create that buffer then we wouldn’t have that cyclical trimming.”
As a result, much of Pearson’s perimeter is being cleared, as are certain areas inside the park where dead ash trees, killed by the emerald ash borer beetle, have been removed. There is also evidence of damage by other invasive species.
“It’s not just the perimeter, but from the interior of the park in that direction, and then we’ll have a much more in depth plan for re-vegetating it from the trail system to the lake,” Gallaher said. “It’s two-fold. This park is very stressed around the perimeter. You know, we want to get natives back in there and/or, if we don’t use natives local to this area, we want to create some sort of buffer system between the trails and the road just for the park experience.”
That is only one of several problems his staff faces at Pearson Metropark right now in trying to maintain
|Metropark's Tim Gallaher, left, aong with
Scott Savage and Fritz Byers, stand near
an area that was cleared of Buckthorn, an
invasive species that is growing at Pearson
Metropark. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean.)
a native habitat. The fight against the emerald ash borer has not ended, and the removing of ash trees is leaving open spaces where other invasive plant species are taking over.
On Wednesday morning, Metroparks officials went on an ash tree removal project tour of Pearson to see what was happening first hand. Nine individuals took the tour, including Metroparks Director Donald R. Rettig Jr.; Commissioners Scott Savage, Lera Doneghy, and Fritz Byers; Pearson District Supervisor Jim Cassidy; Director of Public Relations Scott Carpenter; Gallaher; and two representatives from The Press.
What they saw was that Buckthorn and other invasive species have taken over and are outcompeting native plant life in areas where the ash trees were removed. Gallaher and Cassidy estimate that in certain targeted sections of Pearson 90 percent of the green foliage visible on the ground and up to 25 feet in the air is Buckthorn.
Most of these invasive plant species have been here for a long time, it’s only now that they are flourishing at Pearson because of the canopies created by the removal of ash trees. When one area is cleared, the invasives migrate to another.
“They have been here. It’s two-fold,” Gallaher said. “What we are experiencing with the canopy reduction in the high quality areas of this park is to create an opportunity for the invasives to move from this western end into that eastern side of the park, due to the canopies created by the emerald ash borer. That’s why it’s critical to actually address it more sooner than we have in the past.”
Gallaher says that many of the invasive plant species were planted for a particular reason, and not brought here accidentally like the emerald ash borer. The borer is believed to have arrived with freight cargo from Asia.
“It’s historically true that they have done some plantings in natural areas because the thought was it was more nutritional to the birds for their migration, but it’s kind of proved to be the opposite,” Gallaher said. “They move in and take advantage of opportunities in the forest floor for those seeds that are in the seed bank to grow.”
To fight the invasive species and help preserve natural habitat, the Metroparks received a $1.3 million federal ARRA grant through the U.S. Forest Service. One of the recommendations resulting from this grant is to remove the Buckthorn, but it is one of many invasive species in the park. The grant is not only to remove invasives, but for research and to facilitate trails and roadways.
“Tim’s (Gallaher) biggest goal is to get this ARRA stimulus funding behind him and get this started,” said Rettig at a workshop inside Macomber Lodge following the tour.
Rettig said Gallaher is being assisted by three new staff members, who are taking on the role of land stewards.
For some reason, still unknown to park officials, other tree species are dying, including Box Elder Maples, Elms, and Hawthorns. Gallaher says preliminary findings show it may be a fungus, but there could be other reasons. He does not want the public to be alarmed, however.
“We just don’t know. I was basically just trying to throw that out there to say it’s a cause and effect thing sometimes. The other thing is the natural life of the elms, you know. Elm and Ash trees typically grow in the same spot, so it’s just not always just something you can look at with a microscope — there are other powers to be out there,” Gallaher said.
Meanwhile, there is yet another invasive species being introduced, but this one is deliberate. Plans are to introduce a predatory wasp which feeds off the emerald ash borer, plus it is believed other insects may be preying on the Asian beetle.
“It is in its early stages right now. Hopefully, it will control the ash borer in the future,” Gallaher said.
Gallaher says if this strategy works, there is the possibility that ash trees could regenerate.
Officials at a park in Hamilton County near Cincinnati have been dealing with an invasive vine intruding on native habitat. Pearson officials are communicating with them for educational purposes.
“There in Hamilton County, it’s mostly honey suckle they have growing there. It’s a little bit more different here. We have a lot more Buckthorn, so yeah, we definitely share information back and forth,” Gallaher said.