‘These invasive species are taking over’

A multi-year effort to remove invasive plants is expected to pay big dividends by improving water quality for residents of Topeka, Kansas.

In March, KSNT 27 News reported that the conservation organization Friends of the Kaw, or FOK, and its partners were completing a two-year initiative to replant the banks of the Kansas River.

The project, which received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will support the health of the area by naturally controlling erosion and filtering pollutants. Many of the selected native species have deep roots, which increases the soil’s ability to absorb water and thus promotes flood protection.

Shawnee County and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Native Lands Restoration Collaborative, the city of Topeka and K-State Extension also worked to replace the troublesome species with native options.

“Both honeysuckle and wintercreeper are a problem for the area,” FOK Director Dawn Buehler told 27 News. “These invasive species are taking over. Native plants are better for wildlife and food sources; they have so many benefits.”

Another advantage of native plants is that they do not require time-consuming and expensive maintenance – something many homeowners have happily discovered in their own gardens. It is fair to speculate that the restoration project could free up money for other investments and projects that benefit the city.

In addition, invasive species can quickly overtake an area, contributing to a loss of biodiverse plants that support pollinators. This is a problem that woodland honeysuckle and wintercreeper pose for places like Topeka.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in three bites of our food comes from these creatures, making their protection a crucial part of ensuring adequate nutrition is available.

And reintroducing native species can contribute to efforts to heal our ecosystems. In South London, for example, a river revitalization project resulted in the successful return and spawning of brown trout, which had been missing from the area for more than 80 years.

In Massachusetts, decades of habitat restoration have led to the exciting discovery of a caterpillar of a rare butterfly species, which appears to have expanded its range.

27 News noted that FOK’s river restoration project should be completed in June.

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