Land managers who have been successful at tackling invasive plants typically take the time to develop an invasive species management plan. To be successful, plans should be well thought out and designed to meet the goals of the project. In cases time, money and staff resources are limited, management planning will help land managers best use these resources. The management plan is the guiding document for any invasive plant management program and should be designed for long-term goals for treating and monitoring invasive plants.
The management of natural, biological systems is inherently difficult because predicting the way an ecosystem will behave is highly unpredictable. The outcome of invasive species management and control is based on a relatively short history and understanding of invasive plant management. Taking an adaptive approach to invasive plant management will provide the most successful results.
The Adaptive Management Approach
Many approaches can be taken to address invasive plant problems. The obvious considerations include money, time and available resources (tools, staff, etc.). Most often, all are limited. Fortunately, a great many land managers who have faced these challenges over the years and have developed guidelines, plans and approaches that can assist you.
Overview of the Adaptive Management Approach (AMA)
Adaptive management differs from traditional management approaches because it allows management activities to proceed despite uncertainty regarding how best to achieve desired outcomes, and adjust practices when inevitable changes or surprises arise. In fact, it specifically targets such uncertainty: it compels ecosystem managers to be open and explicit regarding what is not known about how best to achieve conservation and management objectives.
Steps in the AMA
(1) Establish conservation goals and objectives for the site. These may be identified in a broader management plan for the site or may need to be identified for purposes of the invasive plant management plan for the site.
(2) Conduct an assessment to determine is invasive plants exist that could impede achieving desired management goals and objectives. If invasive plants are found to be an issue, mapping and ranking these plants becomes important. If no invasive plants are found during the assessment, then regular follow-up assessments should be performed to detect early introductions.
(3) Determine which methods are available to control the invasive plants.
(4) Develop and implement a management plan designed to move conditions toward management goals and objectives. Evaluate which control methods will work best given your site conditions and resource constraints.
(5) Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of management actions in moving conditions toward these goals and objectives. If the evaluation reveals that management goals and objectives have not been met, then begin the cycle again and determine whether or not you need to modify your goals and objectives. If you reach success, then it is important to use preventative measures for reintroduction and regularly monitor and evaluate the site.
Control activities are not started until the first three steps have been taken. Invasive plant control programs should be part of an overall restoration program, so focus on what species or conditions are desired to replace the invasive plant, rather than simply eliminating the plant. When selecting control methods, keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of the work is to preserve native species, communities or functioning ecosystems.