Invasive non-native plants (weeds) jeopardize the health and sustainability of native forest and rangeland ecosystems and urban forests. Geographically separated from their co-evolved natural enemies, invasive plants are able to establish and rapidly proliferate in their new habitat.
Forest Service research focuses on developing tools and information needed by managers to predict, prevent, detect, monitor, control, and manage high priority invasive plants and restore and rehabilitate impacted landscapes. This research includes evaluating economic, social and environmental impacts; quantifying the biology, ecology, and interrelations among species and among tropic levels; developing biological controls; and elucidating the relationship between fire and invasive plants.
A large portion of the research focuses on biological control because it is one of the few tools proven effective in controlling widespread invasive plants.
Successful biological control agents can provide continuing and expanding control while reducing dependence on pesticides. However, because ecosystems are complex, it is important to consider the effects on all the other organisms within the community, not just the pest and biological control agent.
Invasive plant research at the Northern Research Station targets multiflora rose, Russian olive, oriental bittersweet, and honeysuckle in urban landscapes. Scientists focus on the interactions of invasive plants, soil chemistry, native herbivorous insects, and insect predators such as birds. See also:
- Ailanthus and Prescribed Fire Study
- SILVAH - Non-native Invasive Species
- Effects of Nonnative Plants on Bird Communities in Suburban Forest Fragments
The Rocky Mountain Research Station studies biological control of important rangeland weeds, such as leafy spurge, dalmatian toadflax, cheatgras, spotted knapweed and other invasive species:
- Classical Biological Control of Dalmatian (Linaria dalmatica), Yellow (L. vulgaris) and Hybrid (L. dalmatica x L. vulgaris) Toadflax
- Ecology and Management of Leafy Spurge in the Northern Great Plains
- Effect of Endophytic Fungi on Cheatgrass Growth and Fecundity
- Spotted Knapweed Impacts on Native Plant Communities
- Integrating Chemical Ecology and Biological Control of Invasive Plants
- Efficacy of Biological Control for Weed Management
- Impacts of Exotic Plants on Songbirds
Southern Research Station scientists are looking for biological control agents for Chinese privet, an important riparian weed. The station has also developed a field guide, Non-native Invasive Plants of Southern Forests.
The Pacific Southwest Research Station scientists are developing biological controls for some of the many invasive plant species present in Hawaii, such as strawberry guava.
The Pacific Southwest Research Station has published an overview of Invasive Plants in 21st Century Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest.