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Individual Highlight

Unwanted Side Effects of Roads Are Invasive Species

Photo of Noxious weeds were monitored following thinning and burning treatments in a lodgepole pine forest. Forest ServiceNoxious weeds were monitored following thinning and burning treatments in a lodgepole pine forest. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Monitoring invasive plants is an important component of forest restoration

Principal Investigators(s) :
Runyon, Justin B.  
Research Location : Tenderfoot Experimental Forest, Montana
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 141


Burning and thinning treatments are increasingly being used in western forests to manage the infestation of insects and disease as well as to reduce wildfire hazards. Unfortunately, these treatments can trigger the invasion and spread of invasive plants, which can thwart restoration efforts. Land managers need to be aware of this unwanted potential side effect and be armed with the knowledge to best monitor and treat weeds after restoration. The effects of burning and thinning treatments on the introduction and spread of invasive plants are not well understood, however.

A recently published, long-term Forest Service study conducted at the Tenderfoot Experimental Forest in Montana helps shed some light on the spread of invasive plants. Conducted in a lodgepole pine forest in central Montana, the study involved researchers monitoring noxious weeds after thinning and burning treatments and surveying treatment units and along roads.

Five species listed as noxious weeds in Montana were found: spotted knapweed, oxeye daisy, Canada thistle, common tansy, and houndstongue. With the exception of Canada thistle, noxious weeds were confined to roadsides and did not colonize silvicultural treatment areas. This example highlights the importance of roads for weed distribution and spread, and it suggests that the effects of roadways should be considered when evaluating the potential for invasion of exotic plants after restoration treatments.

In the Tenderfoot Experimental Forest, weed control along adjacent roads and in heavily disturbed areas, such as slash piles, may be a cost-effective and efficient tactic to limit exotic plant invasion. Although many questions remain, and more research is needed on this topic, it is clear that monitoring invasive plants within treated areas and along roads should be a permanent component of forest restoration.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Tenderfoot Experimental Forest
  • Montana Conservation Corps, Montana Department of Agriculture

Program Areas