by Cindy Schwie
Exotic species of plants, like buckthorn, are taking over the bluff and crowding out native species. This lack of plant diversity is hurting the wildlife habitat on the bluff and the river valley ecosystem as a whole.
Recently, I was asked what monocultures (single plant species) were and why would I want to encourage residents to remove a plant that grows well, furnishes birds with food, and provides privacy. It took only a moment for me to ask this person to imagine going to their favorite restaurant and opening the menu, only to find one item listed. They said, “That would be ridiculous! A menu with no choices!” I said, “The same is true for nature.” Buckthorn is rapidly eliminating choices. Diversity is the key to ecological health and sustainability.
Unfortunately, diversity is diminishing along the Mississippi River. Even the casual observer will note that a monoculture is emerging and Buckthorn is one of the culprits. It is crowding out native plants and in the process, we are losing wildflowers, trees, and shrubs because the native species cannot compete with an aggressive exotic shrub such as buckthorn. In some areas, an unnatural impenetrable wall of vegetation hides the river.
The goal of the project is to restore the river bluff to its natural pattern of vegetation by removing exotic species. This will help create better habitat for wildlife, better views of the beautiful Mississippi River and a stronger, more vital river bluff ecosystem.