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Even Nature isn’t All Natural Anymore: Greenway Invasives Partnership

By Kendell Bennett


Defending native habitats

As human populations continue to grow, keeping our remaining natural areas in optimal condition becomes more and more important. Part of this effort includes ensuring that these natural areas support a full suite of native plant and animal species. 

As humans have traveled around the world, they have introduced many plant species into areas where they did not occur naturally.  Some of these plants are capable of spreading aggressively and monopolizing resources to the detriment of native species.  As a result, native plant populations shrink or disappear and overall biodiversity is reduced.  Furthermore, these non-native “invaders” can alter native habitats so much that they cause a chain reaction of local plant and animal extinctions in the invaded areas. 

It is important not only to remove these invasive plant species, but to replace them with the native plants that once inhabited the area. Over long periods of time, the plant and animal species that inhabit an area adapt to the area and to each other. Because of these relationships, restoring the native plants to an area can benefit the animals that inhabit the area.

What is the Greenway Invasives Partnership?

The Greenway Invasives Partnership focuses on removing invasive, non-native plant species and restoring native plant communities along the Little Tennessee River Greenway in Macon County. These restored native communities will provide valuable habitat for the animals of the area and a place for recreation for the area’s residents. With the town that surrounds the greenway growing constantly, The Greenway Partnership ensures that the environment is as healthy as possible. The greenway is found within the Little Tennessee River basin.  The Little Tennessee River basin is an important migratory route for many birds and provides recreation for the people of the areas that surround it.

How can you serve?

Service Learning volunteers Remove can work to remove exotic invasive plants, Search for new infestations, Re-plant and maintain native habitat, conduct field surveys of plants and animals, or educate Greenway users about exotic invasive plants and habitat restoration by creating pamphlets and displays.

During an onsite research trip for this profile, I was able to take part in a river cane (Arundinaria gigantea) restoration project. River cane is just one of the native species being restored by the Greenway Invasives Partnership. This plant species is not only important for its environmental impact, but it also plays an important role in the culture of the Cherokee. The Cherokee use the cane bark in basket making and many other crafts. The local Cherokee tribe will sustainably harvest cane bark from the plants we installed for basket making once the plants are the right size.  It was extremely rewarding to take part in this project, knowing that my efforts would have an environmental and cultural impact for many.

For more information, contact Sonya Himes at slhimes@yahoo.com.

These profiles were created by the students in Mary Adams's English 303 (spring 2010) class