Removing Invasive Plants Enhances Habitat

for Birds and Pollinators

Invasive plants were removed from the Times Beach Nature Preserve in Buffalo, N.Y. and replaced with native plants to support migratory birds and pollinators.

Description

Located at the confluence of the Niagara River, the Buffalo River, and Lake Erie, Times Beach is a focal point for migrating birds and pollinators seeking food, shelter, and breeding grounds. The site contains a wide range of habitat types that support many different species: a pond hosts waterfowl and herons; seasonal mudflats attract migratory shorebirds; while upland meadows and forests provide additional resources and canopy habitat. With so many birds attracted to Times Beach it has become a poplar birding destination. Unfortunately, this vital ecosystem has been significantly altered by decades of human activity. Due to its convenient location near both the Buffalo River and Buffalo Harbor, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began dumping dredged materials at Times Beach in the mid-1960s. Dumping foreign materials facilitated the spread of invasive plants throughout Times Beach, including phragmites, Japanese knotweed, mugwort, and buckthorn. These invasives displaced the native plants that birds and wildlife rely on, causing a significant decline in species diversity throughout Times Beach.

Since being recognized as a nature preserve in 2006, efforts have been underway to clean up Times Beach. Thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a coalition of local governments, citizens groups, and the Army Corps of Engineers have partnered to remove invasive plants from Times Beach and restore its natural ecology. This began with a seed bank analysis to identify the plants that had comprised the displaced native community. Workers then removed invasive plants, using both mechanical removal and chemical herbicide application. The varying removal techniques were employed in different parts of the site to compare their efficacy. Workers then planted the native plants identified in the seed bank to re-vegetate and naturalize the site. Fencing was used to protect the newly planted natives from grazing deer. This project began in 2012, and the final native plantings were conducted in the fall of 2016. The project partners are currently developing a strategy for site management that will prevent re-colonization by invasives and maintain the gains they have made. They are also beginning a new project that will emphasize planting fall flowering plants, such as goldenrods and asters, to support the migrating populations of monarch butterflies that rest in Times Beach during the fall.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Invasive species
  • Habitat loss
  • Contaminated sediment

TIMES BEACH RESTORATION

People planing trees

Workers remove invasive plants from Times Beach to support migratory birds and pollinators. Credit: Jay Burney.

Results and Accomplishments

At this point, over 90 percent of the invasive plants from Times Beach have been removed. Naturalizing this ecosystem has encouraged the return of warblers, herons, waterfowl, and other migratory bird species. This has also enhanced recreational opportunities for birdwatchers and hikers. Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve is working with local schools to teach students about the importance of Times Beach and explain how it is being naturalized. The comparisons between different removal techniques from this project are being used to guide other invasive plant removal efforts throughout the Great Lakes, including projects in Ashtabula, Ohio. and Green Bay, Wis.