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Invasive plants challenge scientists in face of environmental change
Date:1/13/2009

Managing invasive plant species on the Great Plains has become more challenging in recent years in the face of human-caused environmental change, including the positive responses of invaders to altered atmospheric chemistry and longer growing seasons, says a University of Colorado at Boulder professor.

According to Professor Timothy Seastedt of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department, 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, he said.

"Things are hitting the fan in terms of environmental changes and their impacts on native plants," said Seastedt, also a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. "A number of invasive plant species have become better adapted for some of these altered Great Plains ecosystems than dominant native species."

Seastedt has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service to partner with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, or OSMP, for a research, modeling and outreach effort on invasive plant species in the Boulder region. The project will focus on three weed species viewed as threats to the conservation goals of OSMP, including Dalmation toadflax, Canada thistle and cheatgrass.

The USDA grant to Seastedt includes support for an employee who will be shared by OSMP. University of Wyoming Assistant Professor Aaron Strong, a former CU-Boulder doctoral student, also will participate in the project along with CU-Boulder researcher David Knochel, said Seastedt. The grant provides for an outreach effort by CU-Boul
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Contact: Timothy Seastedt
Timothy.Seastedt@colorado.edu
303-492-3302
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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