Monday, February 18, 2008

Restoring a Marsh

This past year, the Friends of Princeton Open Space received a grant from the federal government's Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) to restore four acres of habitat in Mountain Lakes Preserve. The initial phase of the restoration involves removing the intimidating architecture of invasive shrubs from the chosen locations in the preserve.

Recently, volunteer Michael Arntzenius and I took advantage of the cool winter weather to take on the dense growth of exotic multiflora rose, privet and shrub honeysuckles growing around a springfed marsh.

When confronting a ten foot-high wall of invasive shrubs, some of which are well-armed with thorns, one helpful motivation is the liberation of the native species partially buried in the invasive tide.

Here is a particularly satisfying situation, in which a native red chokeberry can be relieved of competition from the invasive multiflora rose growing up, through and over it (cluster of native stems to the left in photo). Just two strokes of the loppers shifts the balance, allowing the native to lay claim to sunlight and soil moisture in the coming growing season.

After some struggle, and a few encounters with the business end of the rose bushes' armor, we cleared a pathway along the edge of the marsh, which has remained hidden behind the thorny wall for decades.

Here's how the marsh looks in late May, with fringed sedge, skunk cabbage, winterberry thriving in the springfed opening. Per usual, the wettest areas are dominated by natives, with the exotics having the upper hand around the fringe.

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