Introduced Plants, Worms, and Deer

On February 25, 2013, Bernd Blossey, Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, gave a talk at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology entitled, “How Introduced Plants, Worms, and Deer are Reshaping our Neighborhoods.”

Cornell ecologist Bernd Blossey sets a trail cam to record deer behavior in the recent PBS Nature episode "The Private Life of Deer." (Click on photo to see the program.)

Blossey is considered a world authority on the biological control of invasive species. His presentation radically changed many people’s ideas about things happening in our woods.

Some examples:

  • Though earthworms, which are not native, may benefit gardens and plowed agricultural soil, they are devastating to the leaf litter and humus of the forest floor, compacting the soil and causing serious soil erosion, leading to the loss of many native plants, amphibians, and invertebrates.
  • Garlic mustard, one of the best-known invasive plants in our eastern forests, and which many people spend hours weeding from parks, preserves, and the woods around their homes, will not infest an area not already invaded by earthworms. (Blossey offers a $5000 reward for anyone who can find an exception to this!) Furthermore, Blossey says the research indicates that pulling up garlic mustard is a waste of time, as it eventually poisons the soil against itself; that pulling the plant actually delays this process and prolongs the presence of the plant; and that the presence of garlic mustard appears not to limit the success of native wildflowers such as trillium.
  • Deer overpopulation, however, does have an enormous impact on the health, biodiversity, and the very future of our forests. Blossey said that research on Cornell lands indicates that sterilization of females to reduce deer numbers is a huge waste of money (at $700 to $1000 per animal), as it is completely ineffective in reducing the overabundance of deer in “open populations.”

Prof. Blossey spoke of much more, including comparing the effects on amphibian populations from invasive plants and native plants in aquatic ecosystems.

When I went to the lecture, I had not planned to record it, but I changed my mind while there. I recorded it with the video function of my shirt pocket camera, finishing off with my iPhone when I ran out of card storage. The video quality is poor, especially the iPhone section, but the audio is acceptable. You can see Dr. Blossey’s slides in more than half of the presentation.  Perhaps think of it as a podcast with some visuals.

I decided to post Prof. Blossey’s talk because I feel much information in it is so new to most of us and challenges a number of the assumptions that many of us have about managing invasive species, one of the biggest environmental issues of our time.

Watch/listen right here:

Journey to Big Bend

In this episode of Walk in the Park TV (#46), Tony travels to Texas, first to visit Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande in the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains of southwest Texas. See this episode on Ithaca, NY’s public access channel 13 (see the schedule below) or watch it right here on this page, below.

Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, Texas

Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, Texas

He also visits Historic Fort Stockton which was manned by African American “Buffalo Soldiers” following the Civil War, during the war against the Comanches, Apaches, and other Indian nations in the campaign to conquer the Southwest and secure the southernmost wagon train route to California.

Historic Fort Stockton, Texas

Historic Fort Stockton, Texas

Then Tony camps in the Texas Hill Country west of San Antonio, spending several days at the birdwatching hot spot South Llano River State Park in Junction, TX. There he sees many birds new to him, including the painted bunting, and has an encounter with a rattlesnake! See all the Walk in the Park TV episodes and more online here.

Painted Bunting in South Llano River State Park, Junction, Texas. Birding, bird watching.

Painted Bunting in South Llano River State Park, Junction, Texas

Watch the  half hour show right here….

Or catch it on Ithaca, NY’s public access cable TV channel 13 this Saturday and Sunday (April 27 & 28) at 10:30 a.m., and next Tuesday (April 30) at 8:00 p.m. The video quality on your TV will be better than in this online version.


Winter Arrives in the Finger Lakes

Two snowstorms left more than a foot on the hills, fields, towns, and gorges around Ithaca, NY, as winter began at the end of 2012. Join host Tony Ingraham in this first episode of 2013 in his public access cable TV series, “Walk in the Park.” Go on a video visit to Taughannock Falls accompanied by Duke Koistra’s ethereal piece, “First Snow.” See photographer Deanna Stickler Laurentz’s pictures of a beaver feeding along the bank of Fall Creek on January 6. Travel into winter in Ingraham’s video, “Winter Water,” visiting Buttermilk Falls, Taughannock Falls, Ithaca Falls, Cayuga Lake, and Watkins Glen State Park. Hear about the award-winning documnentary, “Chasing Ice.” Learn about the extra deer hunting season that began today and will continue until the end of January in the state’s new Deer Management Focus Area in Tompkins County surrounding Ithaca. See more Walk in the Park episodes and short videos.

This is episode 33, recorded on January 9 at PEGASYS public access TV studios in Ithaca, NY. Walk in the Park appears on Ithaca’s cable access channel 13 on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m., and Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m., and at other times of the station manager’s choosing. As of this posting, the next showings of this episode will be tomorrow, Sunday, January 13 at 10:30 a.m., and Tuesday, January 15, at 8:00 p.m. Or, watch it right here!