From: Penn State
Published July 20, 2017 02:35 PM

Shale gas development spurring spread of invasive plants in Pa. forests

Vast swaths of Pennsylvania forests were clear-cut circa 1900 and regrowth has largely been from local native plant communities, but a team of researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has found that invasive, non-native plants are making significant inroads with unconventional natural gas development.

The spread of invasive non-native plants could have long-term negative consequences for the forest ecosystem in a region where the ubiquitous woods provide timbering revenue, wildlife habitat and ecotourism, warns team member David Mortensen, professor of weed and applied plant ecology.

In recent years, he and other researchers at the University have been tracking the ecological impact of hundreds of well pads, access roads and pipelines built to extract gas from the Marcellus shale.

"Studies have shown that when invasive plants such as Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stiltgrass) move into an area, it changes the plant community, and native plants tend to decline," Mortensen said. "Soon we will see a ripple effect in the forest ecosystem that will affect organisms that depend on the native plants. Ultimately, economic factors such as timber harvests may be affected, and wildlife and bird communities likely will change."

Read more at Penn State

Image: Japanese stiltgrass, or Microstegium, is one of the most common invasive plants in Pennsylvania, and is often seen around shale gas well pads and access roads. It establishes dense stands in forest understory and chokes out native vegetation.  Credit: Mortensen Lab / Penn State

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

2017©. Copyright Environmental News Network