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rehabilitating invasive species monoscapes

 
R Ranson
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I love this new word: monoscaping. Where the invasive species have been so successful they kill every other plant, becoming a monoculture.

Normally I wouldn't mind invasive species so much, except with public pressure to remove them and possible fines for property owners/residents for those who don't actively remove them... well, I need to at least keep up appearances. So the periwinkle and Himalayian blackberry need to be reduced... or at the very least, they need to be un-monoscaped.

What I've been learning from Tao Orian's visit to permies.com is that we can treat invasive species as a step in ecosystem development. I learned earlier this week about scotch broom that these successful invasive species, can be seen as a step towards improving the land:

An important piece of the conversation related to Scotch broom on the West Coast of North America is its successional role in the context of unmanaged or undermanaged oak savannah ecosystems. Its often found in highly disturbed ecosystems (like clearcuts), but is also found in what are often considered "undisturbed" ecosystems like oak savannahs.


I'm not big on neo-Darwinist language, but I'll use it anyway. We could see the monoscaping of periwinkle as an evolutionary stage towards a more diverse and productive ecosystem.

So how do I speed that along? How do I encourage the next succession of the ecosystem? Can I create a situation that reduces the spread of periwinkle and brambles on the land where humans have trouble going (steep slope with deep pond beneath it).


A side note about these two particular monoscapes: the periwinkle and blackberries. These are also two of the most diverse areas of wildlife on our property. Some exceptionally rare birds and I suspect a night snake (an uncomon snake that doesn't live on our island). So even though it looks barren and plant-wise, is a monoculture, it most certainly is not an empty wasteland. But I'll do my part to get rid of none the less because that's what public opinion wants.
 
Dale Hodgins
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The night snake is not known to live on Vancouver Island.

We have three races of the Garter Snake and the very tiny pointed nose snake.

Night snakes are limited to hot, dry regions of South Central BC.

Here's an excerpt from the web page that was posted--- Night Snakes appear to be limited to extreme south-central British Columbia. About 40 Night Snakes have been recorded in B.C., and most of these snakes were located in the Okanagan Valley. Some snakes also have been found in the Similkameen. Night Snakes appear to be associated with Sagebrush and Juniper plant communities, rock outcrops, and south-facing talus slopes. Like other oviparous species, these snakes need appropriate hibernacula, egg-laying sites, and productive summer hunting grounds to survive within these hot, dry regions.
 
R Ranson
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Dale Hodgins wrote:The night snake is not known to live on Vancouver Island.

We have three races of the Garter Snake and the very tiny pointed nose snake.

Night snakes are limited to hot, dry regions of South Central BC.

Here's an excerpt from the web page that was posted--- Night Snakes appear to be limited to extreme south-central British Columbia. About 40 Night Snakes have been recorded in B.C., and most of these snakes were located in the Okanagan Valley. Some snakes also have been found in the Similkameen. Night Snakes appear to be associated with Sagebrush and Juniper plant communities, rock outcrops, and south-facing talus slopes. Like other oviparous species, these snakes need appropriate hibernacula, egg-laying sites, and productive summer hunting grounds to survive within these hot, dry regions.


I know.

This is why it's so awesome. Even if it isn't a night snake, it is not a snake we have here. I've spent a bit of time volunteering with the parks departments, have naturalist training and time volunteering at a reptile rehabilitation center when I was a kid - so I can say with certainty that it was not a garter snake. The night snake is the closest we have (and the environment it was in matches). The alternative is that it's an exotic snake, but I doubt that.

I saw it twice last summer, and one other person (a naturalist) saw it. Couldn't get a photo of it, but I'm hoping it will be there again this summer.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Looking at the likelihood of one of these snakes hitching a ride across the province or some fool purchasing a snake as a pet, and then releasing it, I think the pet store variety is more likely.

If you were up on the malahat, I might be more inclined to think that there's a chance of it being an unknown, long-term resident. But we are in the largest city on this island, where pet stores abound. A critter camera might help to settle this.
 
R Ranson
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Looking at the likelihood of one of these snakes hitching a ride across the province or some fool purchasing a snake as a pet, and then releasing it, I think the pet store variety is more likely.

If you were up on the malahat, I might be more inclined to think that there's a chance of it being an unknown, long-term resident. But we are in the largest city on this island, where pet stores abound. A critter camera might help to settle this.


It's possible.
We won't know more until I can gather more data (photo or actual snake) and get an expert to look at it. That is if the snake survived the winter.


Getting back to the original topic, it's interesting to me that these invasive monoscapes can be home to unusual and rare animals. For better or worse, I don't know. I find it interesting that what the public perceives as an ecological wasteland is teaming with life.

But alas, it is visible to the public, so how do I deal with it? How do I encourage the next stage in the succession or whatever the language is for this? Slash and burn, chemical control, constant mechanical control are not much of an option due to size of area and expense. So it makes more sense if we can encourage nature to move to the next 'stage'... whatever that is.
 
Tao Orion
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My take on the matter is that you have to have a clear goal for what you want in the space that is currently inhabited by invasive species. Its also great that you have been noticing that those areas covered with invasive species are also those rich in wildlife - this important observation should also guide your decision-making about your goals for the site over the short, medium, and long-term. The 'moonscape' approach so common in conventional restoration is not necessarily looking at potential ecosystem functions of invasive species, which although they may not be ideal, are certainly not negligible in most cases. These functional values need to be considered as intrinsic to the site development plan as you move from an area covered with invasive species 'X' to something more desirable. It sounds like your site is steep - was it excavated, or is it a roadcut? Would you be able to graze goats on it? If you can think of a way to use biological resources like small grazers to do the initial land clearing, you'll be enriching the soil (which blackberries and vinca are also doing in their own special ways=) ), and helping with the process of moving succession along. Sheet mulching is also an option that I've had success with (with vinca), and I've had great success using pigs to root out blackberry roots (they love them!) So, to use that old Permaculture saying "it depends"...on your site conditions, land use history, and goals. If you desire the area to be covered with native forbs and grasses, then the management plan would be different from if the area is going to be a walnut orchard. I'd love to help you continue to strategize about it though, so if you have more information about the site you'd like to share, let me know!
 
R Ranson
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So, it took me a few days to realize this, but it turns out my brain confused 'moonscaping' with 'monoscaping'. I never said I had a normal brain.

I like both the words. Moonscaping to describe the desolate wasteland, and monoscaping to talk about the apparent monoculture that highly successful invasives produce. I think I'll keep using monoscaping because it's fun to say and write.


My goal is to create the appearance that I'm taking action against these invasives. The public takes a keen interest in farms and is not above coming onto private property to correct some perceived injustice. So, we just need to keep up appearances. No need to completely eradicate a species, especially when some of the wildlife really enjoy the habitat these plants provide.

Where I am basically it's dry for the 6 months of summer, and wet-ish for winter. I'm hoping to close in the bramble area soon so the goats can go at it, but the ground is a bit soggy, which won't be good for their feet. The blackberries I don't mind so much because they produce lots of lovely food. Blackberries seem to like water, so I was wondering about planting some willows near by to help dry up the area.

The periwinkle is more difficult. It's not an area the livestock can graze. We don't really have a set goal around the pond, except that the neighbour want's privacy, so we've been letting the pioneer trees grow up (willow, cottonwood, &c) and we've been coppicing the occasional one when we need some wood. The periwinkle helped reduce erosion after the bank was reshaped, but now it's looking like a monoculture. I'm keen to have diversity and to provide a habitat that attracts animals who help on the farm (birds for insect eating, pollonators, &c.)
 
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