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FRAME Study Looks at Invasive Plants in Delaware

Forest Service scientists and the Carolina wren. Vincent D'Amico, Forest ServiceSnapshot : What are the causes and consequences of soil, plant, and animal changes in the valuable patches of forests that make up urban parks, riparian buffers, and undeveloped lots

Principal Investigators(s) :
D'Amico, Vince 
Research Location : Delaware
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 64


A collaborative study that was undertaken 45 years ago between the University of Delaware and the Forest Service outlined the benefits of local urban forests, essentially describing what we now call ecosystem services. In 2009, long-term data from these studies in northern Delaware were used to design the Forest Fragments in Managed Ecosystems (FRAME) study. The goal of FRAME research is to understand the causes and consequences of soil, plant, and animal changes in the valuable patches of forests that make up our parks, riparian buffers, and undeveloped lots.

This research addresses a widely recognized problem�invasive nonnative plants�in terms of the overall ecology of urban forest fragments. Beginning in 2009, Forest Service scientists characterized 21 sites in northern Delaware ranging from 2.1 to 16.0 hectares in size, starting from soil analyses and working up through litter, understory plants, arthropods, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

A unique aspect to this research is that it is informed by work begun in the 1960s in some of the same patches by the Forest Service and the University of Delaware. The 1965 report was prescient in its recognition of urban forest benefits, ranging from mental health to clean air and water.

Only 2 years into the project, scientists are finding profound changes in the density of nonnative plant species in the understory, their relationship to native songbird habitat use, and their connection to underlying soil conditions. The coastal mid-Atlantic region is a hotspot for these issues because of its long history of settlement, population density, value to migrating birds, and moderate climate.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • The University of Delaware, and the state of Delaware, New Castle County, and the city of Newark, DE.

Program Areas