Tim Seastedt, Aaron Strong (Univ. of Wyoming), and David Knochel (CU-Boulder) have been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help reduce invasive plant species in the Boulder region. They will be employing research, modeling and outreach in partnership with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP). The project will focus on three weed species viewed as threats to the conservation goals of OSMP, including Dalmation toadflax, Canada thistle and cheatgrass.
Managing invasive plant species on the Great Plains has become more challenging in recent years in the face of human-caused environmental change. A warmer and longer growing season, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and nitrogen deposition on the Great Plains amplify the ability of weedy species to compete with native plants. Classic weed-control techniques like pulling, mowing, herbicide treatments, fire and grazing that knock back invaders often leave ecological "vacuums" that can give other exotic plant species the chance for a foothold.
The grant provides for an outreach effort that will involve middle and high school students in Boulder County. The students will be getting hands-on experience in working with different insect species that might be useful as control agents for invasive plant species. "This effort will expose these students to real science, and hopefully kindle their interest in the many ecological changes occurring in the county, nation and world," said Seastedt.