Monday, June 30, 2014

Minnesota's healthy ecosystem?

As I've been traveling Minnesota's blue highways this year and last, taking more photos of "wild flowers" than ever before, I've noticed that many of the most conspicuous clusters, plots, tracts and beds of wild flowers are listed as invasive species. I've been aware of the issues of purple loosestrife for some time. Now, I find that the attractive orange flowers over many of the roadsides in St. Croix State Park are orange hawkweed.

orange hawkweed, an invasive plant       © harrington

Along the roadside bordering Wild River State Park's western boundary are clusters of Ox-eye daisies (white/yellow) with some (yellow) invasive birds-foot trefoil mixed in. Both are listed as invasive.

Ox-eye daisies(?) and birds-foot trefoil, invasive plants      © harrington

My concerns don't focus on whether it might be preferable to avoid  invasive species, I'm all for intact native ecosystems. I'm wondering if these widespread invasive wildflower outbreaks might actually serve as forage for our honeybee and butterfly populations. I'm also really curious when and if land managers will engage more in a holistic approach to management, rather than relying on remedial controlled burns, herbicides or mowing after the beachheads have been established. Or is that a job for our politicians? The green building sector, both construction and operations, is increasingly utilizing Integrated Pest Management. Some reference works can be found online, with much of the focus on controlling insect pests more than invasives. Maybe we need to take some lessons from the military about counter-insurgency? I think that, over the next generation or two, we're going to have our hands full adapting to climate change and, probably, peak oil and heaven knows what else. The more we can improve our basic land and water management abilities, the less we have to consider spending on remedial activities. Kind of like the way preventive medicine and our health system are supposed to work.

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