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Invasive Plant Species along the Appalachian Trail

Student Researcher: David Grow, Undergraduate Environmental Science/Biology major

Sponsoring Faculty: Dr. Christopher Habeck, Department of Biological Sciences

Project Description: David Grow on AT Invasive plant species are a global threat to biodiversity as they tend to reduce the distribution and abundance of native species. In order to preserve biological integrity, land managers should place an emphasis on controlling invasive plants. However, control actions can be difficult due to the spatial scope of the problem and economic constraints. Furthermore, even with massive effort, it is difficult to completely remove an invasive population once it has been established in an area.

David Grow, under the mentorship of Dr. Chris Habeck, conducted research to predict areas along forest trails that are vulnerable to invasion using basic environmental variables. If successful, David's work could reduce the amount of effort it takes for land managers to effectively control invasive species. During the summer of 2014, David hiked across the entire Pennsylvania portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and documented every invasive species that he encountered along with basic environmental variables at each site of invasion. 

David Grow Poster SessionDavid geospatially analyzed the data and discovered that land management scenarios significantly influence the density of invasions, and Pennsylvania State Gamelands were the most invaded. David presented these results at the 100th annual Ecological Society of America meeting in August 2015. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a non-profit organization associated with the management of the Appalachian Trail, is using this data to guide their management of invasive species in Pennsylvania. In the future, David and Dr. Habeck plan to analyze these data further in order to better understand environmental variables affecting invasion susceptibility.


 September, 2015