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Historical disturbances provide foothold for invasive plant on Buffalo Mountain

Aug. 26, 2014 – Buffalo Mountain in Floyd County, Virginia, is a distinctive knob with popular trails through grassy balds, hardwood glades, and mineral-rich rocks and seeps in a 1,136-acre natural area preserve. However, Japanese spiraea, a robust member of the rose family non-native to the area, may pose a threat to the preserve’s biodiversity.

Virginia Tech forestry and plant science experts have surveyed Japanese spiraea populations at the preserve, identified environmental conditions favoring growth of the unwelcome shrub, and provided recommendations for management.

Carolyn Copenheaver, associate professor of forest ecology in the Department of Forest Resources and Environment in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, whose research focus is disturbance ecology and land use history, has worked with the Natural Heritage Program on Buffalo Mountain for over a decade. 

When Claiborne Woodall, the preserve steward, asked her to investigate the Japanese spiraea invasion, “It was an opportunity to combine Virginia Tech’s research and outreach missions,” Copenheaver said.

Copenheaver enlisted Jeff Feldhaus of Omaha, Nebraska, then a master's degree student who is now working on his doctorate in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Assistant Professor Jacob Barney, an invasive plant expert in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to investigate the extent to which Japanese spiraea has already become established at Buffalo Mountain. 

Their research was published in Natural Areas Journal.  (read more...................)

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