Saguaro National Park managers are trying to eliminate exotic plants that are threatening to crowd out native vegetation in the Sonoran Desert.
TUCSON, Ariz. Saguaro National Park managers are trying to eliminate exotic plants that are threatening to crowd out native vegetation in the Sonoran Desert.
They have drafted a plan that would combine mechanical, chemical, cultural, biological and low-risk methods as new ways to control exotic plants.
"Exotic plants are the skunk at nature's party. They can displace what should be there. They can weaken the health of natural lands and provide a less desirable habitat for everyone," said Dave Simon, director of state parks in New Mexico.
One of the target species in the Southwest is buffelgrass, which is drier than most native grasses and resprouts quickly after fires, said Danielle Foster, a restoration ecologist with Saguaro National Park who drafted the plan.
An estimated 600 acres of the park's 91,000 acres are invaded by exotic plants, much of which is covered by buffelgrass, said Foster. Eliminating these exotic plants can be tricky, especially in the areas where they are overtaking the native plants, she said.
Foster pulls invasive weeds by hand -- the only method allowed now under federal guidelines. She sees buffelgrass springing up everywhere and says it spreads too quickly for her to keep up.
The plan would allow other methods to tackle this intruder and others like it. Foster's proposed methods include using herbicides, revegetating native plants, and in some cases covering exotic plants with black plastic sheeting to block out light and air.
If park officials continue removing these plants by hand, they'll never catch up and the park will be in danger, said Foster. With an integrated approach they can use multiple methods at a time, looking at each species and its location to determine which method is most efficient.
The National Park Service has to approve the plan. It could be implemented within a few months, Foster said.
Source: Associated Press