Date of this Version
Agricultural Research Magazine 60(2): February 2012 pp. 10-11; ISSN 0002-161X
Invasive plants exploit every environmental angle in their favor. So restoring damaged rangelands in the western United States involves a lot more than just getting rid of bad plants and bringing in good plants.
Since 1990, Agricultural Research Service ecologist Roger Sheley has been refining a process for identifying factors that give the undesirable space invaders their territorial edge—and figuring out strategies for restoring a healthy mix of native vegetation for rangelands in need of remediation.
“Killing a weed is like treating a symptom,” says Sheley, who is co-located at Oregon State University’s Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns, Oregon. “So our research has been focused on trying to understand the reason why plants are able to invade and dominate some landscapes and not able to succeed in others. We want to find the cause and then deal with the cause—what has changed in the ecology of the system and how can we change it back?”
Sheley used a range of findings in the literature and years of field research at Burns to develop a decision-making model called “Ecologically Based Invasive-Plant Management” (EBIPM). The process is a mix of longstanding theories of plant establishment and succession, new ecological principles, identification of variables that contribute to invasive plant management, and actions that can help native plants regain territory lost to invasive vegetation.