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You don't have to go out into the woods anymore
Date:10/11/2010

it may be to believe, given the long chain of interactions needed to get there, the presence of bush honeysuckle substantially increases the risk of human disease.

"But that's exactly what is happening," says Jonathan M. Chase, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and a collaborator on the project. The big question now, says Chase, who is also director of Washington University's Tyson Research Center, is whether what holds for honeysuckle holds for other invasive plants as well. "This may be something that's occurring quite broadly, but we're really just starting to look at the connection between invasive plants and tick-borne disease risk."

The honeysuckle experiment

By fortunate chance, Allan and Chase were able to piggyback their honeysuckle research on a similar experiment organized by Humberto P. Dutra of the University of Missouri-St. Louis for his dissertation research.

At the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles, Mo., just west of St. Louis, Dutra set up four types of plots. In one type, the honeysuckle and its berries were left alone; in the second, both the plants and berries were removed; in the third, the plant was there but the berries had been picked and in the fourth, berry clusters were placed on the ground but the plants were uprooted.

"It was very labor intensive so Dutra organized large teams of volunteers dozens at a time to go out there and pick fruits," Allan says.

"The deer used the open areas less than the honeysuckle patches and we don't think it's because they're eating the honeysuckle; we think they're using it for physical structure," says Allan. "They like to bed in it because it's the densest thing out there, the best structure in town. No native species comes close to achieving the same density."

Allan and Dutra measured vegetation density by counting how many leaves touched a string between two poles. By this criterion, honeysuckle patches wer
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Contact: Diana Lutz
dlutz@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert  

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