By Ryan Colliton, Chief of Natural Resources
This fall, as the weather cools off and the leaves begin to change color, the Metroparks Natural Resources Department is staying busy with multiple project. We are continuing to remove invasive species from high-quality habitats, in preparation for our work next year. We are also beginning to treat Phragmites, the giant invasive reed, as this plant species begins to move its energy out of the roots and into its seed head, making the roots easier to kill.
In addition to our annual invasive species treatments, we are preparing for the 2019 prescribed burn season by collecting seeds of native grasses and flowers in our high-quality habitats across the Metroparks. By collecting seeds this fall, we can be ready to spread seed after prescribed burns are performed in early spring 2019. This is important because it ensures that native species continue to dominate the habitat after these units are burned and sunlight can penetrate the canopy and hit the freshly burned ground.
Fall also marks the beginning of Oak Wilt treatment at the Metroparks. Oak trees that were identified as having an infestation of this fungus are treated by isolating them from surrounding healthy Oaks. If the fungus has spread through the tree limbs but not into the ground, Natural Resources may treat the fungus by cutting down the Oak and painting the stump to prevent the fungus spreading into the roots of the tree. Fungicide may be injected into adjacent healthy Oaks as a precaution to the fungus moving through the roots of the infected tree into healthy trees. Diseased Oaks may also be ‘trenched’, where a vibratory plow with a large blade is used to create a trench around the diseased Oak roughly 6-feet deep. Cutting the infected trees roots can help prevent transmission of Oak Wilt to adjacent healthy trees.
As the weather changes the Natural Resources Department shifts its focus from early season to late season species but retains the goal of protecting and expanding our high-quality habitats. Removing invasive species and protecting these habitats for use as wildlife habitat and for the enjoyment of all future visitors to the Metroparks remains the number one priority for the Natural Resources Department.