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Gorchov, Henry awarded USDA grant for research on honeysuckle invasion dynamics

David Gorchov (botany) and Mary Henry (geography) have been awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative (NRI) grant. The $376,940 grant will support their research on how landscape patterns shape the invasion dynamics of the non-native shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). Their work involves an innovative use of remote sensing approaches to determine the historical spread of the shrub.

Invasive species such as honeysuckle threaten biodiversity, habitat quality and ecosystem function, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gorchov, Henry and colleague Oscar Rocha, assistant professor of biological science at Kent State University, will research this problem in our own backyard. Amur honeysuckle was introduced to North America from China as an ornamental shrub in the late 19th century; it was widely planted in the eastern U.S. but escaped from cultivation and is now naturalized in at least 24 states. It was first reported naturalized in Ohio in 1961 in Hamilton county, and is “by far the commonest shrub, native or alien, in Greater Cincinnati,” says Gorchov.

Seeds of this shrub are spread by some of the many bird species that eat the fruits, with robins and starlings most important in southwest Ohio, according to research by Gorchov’s former doctoral student Anne Bartuszevige.

Gorchov, Henry and Rocha will determine how landscape patterns, such as forest fragmentation, shape the pattern and rate of invasion of Amur honeysuckle.

Based on a successful pilot study, they will use Landsat satellite images to detect the historical spread of the shrub. Because Amur honeysuckle is the first shrub to leaf out in spring and the last to drop its leaves in autumn, invaded stands can be distinguished with satellite images, says Henry. Their study “Detecting an invasive shrub in a deciduous forest understory using late-fall Landsat sensor imagery” published in the Aug. 20, 2007, issue of the International Journal of Remote Sensing, was the first to use distinct leaf phenology (seasonal changes in plant growth) to remotely sense an understory species, according to Henry and Gorchov. (Students involved in the Miami’s National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program on Research in Human-Dominated Landscapes contributed to this pilot study). Research supported by the new grant, conducted by master’s student Bryan Wilfong (Institute of Environmental Sciences) has improved the detection ability, enabling the scientists to distinguish heavily invaded from lightly invaded stands.

Once they have reconstructed the historical invasion, the researchers will develop a model to predict the likelihood of new invasions in stands (woodlots and forests) at the edge of the current range.

Ultimately their model will enable land managers to predict which stands will most likely be invaded, and therefore focus monitoring, detection, and early eradication efforts at the sites with the highest risk.

Date Published: 12/13/2007
Volume: 27   Number: 12


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