Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area

 Invasive Species Removal
By Richard DeLorenzo


           On Friday, November 11th, Dr. Tucker’s Conservation Biology class visited the Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area. The management area consists of 3,154 acres of managed waterfowl impoundments and some 27,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods and cypress-tupelo swamps (http://www.georgiawildlife.com/node/1406). Waterfowl depend on wetlands for their survival, however wetlands are rapidly declining. In order to preserve these animals’ natural habitats, state and federal agencies are working together to create management areas. Managed waterfowl impoundments provide the best habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The key to a successful waterfowl impoundment is the ability to control the water level. A dependable water supply is a must. If you can control the water, then you can influence the vegetation in the impoundment. By manipulating factors such as water depth, timing of flooding, duration of flooding, and timing of drawdown, you can provide the proper conditions for growing a variety of food plants that are highly preferred by ducks (DNR).

Although these conservation efforts are in place, the up keep of the impoundments must be maintained. Our class was going to be providing assistance to local DNR biologists in their maintenance efforts of the native vegetation. Eamonn Leonard was the botanist that would be leading the expedition for the day. He was extremely knowledgeable in his field and gave a background on how he ended up at DNR. The major goal for the trip was to remove some Invasive plant species from the management area. A species is categorized invasive if it is not native to the location where it is currently found, and harms or discourages other species from persisting. Chinaberry and Chinese Tallow are two species of plants that are considered invasive to South Georgia, and are in abundance at this particular management area. The Chinaberry has no natural insects or diseases to keep them in check. Both species are crowding out native species, taking valuable resources from the environment, decreasing the amount of available resources for native species. Both of these species are large growing and can take up a large amount of resources.

In order to remove these species from the area the class used machetes and hatchets to chop them down. Once the trees were chopped down and/or wounded, a combination of roundup and diesel fuel was used as a pesticide to destroy the plant. Adding diesel to the Roundup allows for much better absorption into the tree. It also coats the leaves causing photosynthesis to be far less efficient.

I am not an avid hunter, and have never been duck hunting. Seeing the abundance of different species of fowl in the area was eye-opening. Duck hunting plays an important role in the community, and maintaining these management areas allow the animals to be hunted at a sustainable rate. Although I have lived in this community my entire life, this was my first visit to the Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area. I did not realize that there was such a problem with the wetlands declining, nor the importance these wetlands played on different species. Learning about particular topics, like invasive species, and then being able to apply that newly gained knowledge is very important. I did not realize that many local areas are being affected by the very topics we are discussing in class. It was neat to see what local DNR are working on, and get biologists’ perspectives on the community. Getting the chance to help out the DNR and gain knowledge was a great experience and was actually pretty fun.

Once these plants are removed, the native plants will have a better opportunity to flourish, providing a more natural sustainable habitat for the waterfowl population. Invasive species are major problem in many areas and it takes a lot of effort to get rid of these pests. It took approximately two hours in order to remove about 100 yards of these invasive species. This is only a small dent in the amount of vegetation that needs to be removed. It is up to the community to step in and help protect their local flora.

Invasive Species Removal
By Gwen Lowe

Conservation Biology is about using science to preserve different species and ecosystems around the world. In class, we discussed topics such as overexploitation, invasive species, economic values for ecosystem services, and problems that threaten biodiversity.  In discussing these problems, Conservation Biology gives ideas of what individuals can do to help eliminate problems that the ecosystem faces.
On November 8, 2011, the conservation biology class worked side by side with Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Will Ricks was one of the facilitators who explained the process of the day.  He is a Wildlife Biologist who mainly focused on the Waterfowl area in Brunswick.  The Altamaha Waterfowl Conservation Area consists of over 3000 acres of managed waterfowl impoundments.
We observed some native plants in the area, including the Button Bush.  Animals such as the mallard ducks and teal ducks consume the Button Bush. The process for the day was to eliminate and destroy invasive plant species. Eamonn Leonard, a botanist with GA DNR, explained that the invading species that we were trying to kill consisted of the China berry and the Chinese tallow. These plants were brought in years ago thru Savannah. Now they have become abundant and are out-competing the native species. Roundup and diesel fuel were mixed together forming a solution to help kill these invasive plants. In this process, we had part of the team to cut the limbs of the trees and the other half of the class came behind them and sprayed the parts of the tree that were cut with the solution.  The class and the DNR were pretty much successful in getting the job done over a small area. We probably could have covered more ground if time had allowed us to do so.
This process goes along with the lecture of invasive species. We were taught that invasive species can outcompete the native species for resources.  Invasive species pose threats to native animals and other plants.  The individuals from conservation biology who participated in this procedure all brought a positive attitude.  We were all eager to learn about how to destroy invasive plant species!  This experience proved to me that there is much work involved with the process of killing invasive species.  Once an invasive species is established in an environment, it can be nearly impossible to remove it completely.
The group worked well together as a team. Teamwork is a very important factor in processes such as this one, and my favorite aspect of this type of work.  We all worked together and accomplished the task for the day.  Also, I’m a people person with great communication skills which played a large role in getting information needed to write this blog.  Communication was necessary!  Anywho, I’m glad that I could donate my time for a worthy cause.  This was a meaningful project that taught me more about handling invasive species.  Although we had already talked about it in class, I actually learned more about the process by doing hands-on work with it. Even though the class and I smelled of diesel fuel, this was my favorite project for this semester in conservation biology.

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