Invasive Plant Management Techniques

There are many techniques that can help to fight invasive plant species. Most, if not all, require the removal of non-native plants and the replanting of native species or the clearing of the land to give native ecosystems the opportunity to grow naturally. The goal is to restore the land to its natural ecosystem. 

Identification

The first step in restoration is identifying which plants are invasive and need to be removed. There are many resources available to help identify plants and advise the best methods for removal. 

Removal

Once invasive plants have been identified, property managers must make a management plan. This includes details like when to remove, the best removal method, and the course of action for replanting native plants or allowing the opportunity for that to happen. These methods of removal include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Removal by hand: In smaller areas or in smaller amounts, invasive species can be removed by uprooting, cutting at the base or stump, spraying the plants with herbicides, or a combination of these (cut and paint).
    • For more information on safe chemical treatment, please research safe practices and mixing-ratios. Read our chemical mixing cheat-sheet.

  • Removal by machine: When labor by hand is unavailable or impractical for a large area, removal by machinery is a possible method. Large machinery such as backhoes, mulchers, or tractors with attachments is used to remove plants from where the roots start. 
  • Removal by fire: When an invasive species is overrun in an area, sometimes the most effective means are to completely clear an area to allow the complete regrowth of native species. To do this, plots of land can be cleared by fire in a controlled burn to be sure all invasive seeds, roots, and plant growth is removed.
  • Thinning: Thinning is the method of removing parts of trees or plants, but not removing the whole thing (such as clearing some branches off of a tree) to allow room for other plants to grow. In a forest, this can also mean removing selected trees (rather than the whole plot or forest) to make room for the growth of other plants or trees. When a forest is overcrowded, the vegetation can be too thick for wildlife to safely and naturally pass, creating unnatural borders in wildlife movement. Further, more trees in an ecosystem results in too many organisms competing for resources. By thinning trees, the existing trees have the opportunity to grow stronger and healthier. By clearing small plots that are a quarter of an acre or smaller, wildlife openings can be created to increase natural biodiversity in an environment and support natural animal travel patterns.
  • Grazing or Harvesting: Plants that we don’t want growing in an area can be a valuable food resource for animals. Animals like goats or sheep can be used to maintain land that is susceptible to invasive growth, as they graze and remove plants consistently. As a bonus, this is a method that requires no chemicals or other resources (like the electricity that powers machines) to remove invasive growth. The Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility Solar Installation uses this method--sheep graze the area around the installation to control plant growth. In some cases, the invasive plants can also be harvested to use as feed for animals in other locations.

Restoration

Restoration Planting: Once the invasive plants have been removed, the area must be repopulated with native species. Restoration planting is when native species are reintroduced to the land by planting or spreading seeds. Doing so can help to avoid the regrowth of invasives and reestablishes the native ecosystem.

When repopulating an area after clearing, be sure to ask your local plant shop for a list of native plants that would do well on the land. 

More resources:

  •     UGA Extension: Native Plants for Georgia (resources for ferns, grasses, flowers, landscaping plants)

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