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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

In many parts of our Country today(both urban and rural), it can be hard to determine what the native flora of the region was prior to industrial farming and urban builiding................When you go to plant nurseries to seek out landscaping plants, trees and flowers, 90% of the time you learn that your choices involve plantings from China, Japan, Norway and the Mid-East........A person almost has to have a degree in botany,,,,,,,,,,,,and be highly motivated to use a combination of specialty nursery and/or mail order nurseries to secure even a modicum of indigenous trees, shrubs and flowers to plant on their property................Many nurserymen will even go so far as to tout the exotic bird- and butterfly loving plants as being superior to those that are growing up the street in the sliver of natural woodland still standing.................But as ecologist Amanda Rodewald of Ohio State tells us in her "spot on" National Wildlife Federation article---- when we plant those non-natives on our property, we are furthering the downward spiral of biodiversity in the world,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and putting many species of native birds, insects,mammals, trees and shrubs in dire straits...............Tree seedling survival was reduced up to 70 percent, and herb growth and reproduction rates plunged by up to 80 percent, primarily because of the shade cast by non-native honeysuckle.........................concluding that “honeysuckle is good for birds is like going to a highway rest stop, seeing starlings at a dumpster and saying that rest stops are good for birds...............research shows that birds also may be harmed indirectly because nonnative plants affect insects........... The number and diversity of plant-eating insects, especially caterpillars, drops dramatically when exotic plants invade.......................honeysuckle leafs out sooner in spring than most plants causing the fittest cardinals to rush to mate and nest in those shrubs’ dense foliage.............. But instead of a gain in reproductive success, these birds pay a price............ The early nesters in honeysuckle rear 20 percent fewer young than those that nest in native plants.............This is so because the Cardinal nests stick out(no other birds have nested this early), raccoons, hawks and crows spot them easily and swoop in and kill the newly hatched Cardinals................And those bright red berries that you see the Cardinals dining on freely, well the exotic honeysuckle berries seem to contain abundant pigments, but are lacking in the good proteins that make male birds more robust and long lived............So while the males attract females with their bright red color, nature had in mind that female Cardinals would benefit not from the male coloring, but from their vitality and fitness............The color and the vitality historically are linked............Now there are male Cardinals with bright red color but low vitality,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,this, with dire consequence for the long term survival of the species,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,As an ad I once saw in in a nature magazine once yelled out: GO NATIVE OR DO NOT GARDEN AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Nonnative Plants: Ecological Traps

Offering alluring habitat for songbirds, exotic plants may actually decrease the animals' long-term survival and fitness

01-14-2013 // John Carey;National Wildlife Magazine
ASIAN HONEYSUCKLES ARE BEAUTIFUL AND SHOWY BUSHES. Their white and pink flowers can fill the air with fragrance. Songbirds, including northern cardinals, American robins and gray catbirds, flock to nest in the plants’ dense leaves and gorge on their smorgasbord of red and yellow berries.

But these lush plants have a darker side. Since Amur honeysuckle and other Asian species were introduced to the United States in the 1800s, birds have spread their seeds across the eastern part of the country, creating dense thickets everywhere from Vermont to Ohio. The deep shade cast by honeysuckle has devastated countless native plants. “Spring and summer wildflowers are just annihilated,” says ecologist Amanda Rodewald of Ohio State University.

So, too, are tree seedlings such as sugar maple as well as native herbs. At Ohio’s Miami University, ecologist David Gorchov compared the survival of these plants in areas where honeysuckle was removed to areas where the bushes were left intact. “We thought that some native plants would be affected by honeysuckle, while others would not be,” he says. “But we found that everything we looked at was affected.” Tree seedling survival was reduced up to 70 percent, and herb growth and reproduction rates plunged by up to 80 percent, primarily because of the shade cast by honeysuckle, Gorchov hypothesizes.

Bird Magnets

But what about the birds that appear to be thriving in honeysuckle? Researchers at Pennsylvania State University created a stir with a 2011 paper, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions, concluding that the number of fruit-eating birds such as cardinals, robins and catbirds tripled during the past three decades in parts of central Pennsylvania due to the spread of nonnative honeysuckles. Their findings have fueled a controversial argument from a handful of ecologists that some nonnative plants actually may help native wildlife. These scientists also question whether the benefit of removing nonnative plants always justifies the considerable cost such restoration efforts entail.

“Most [nonnative species] seem to have little impact at all, and some have desirable effects,” writes Macalester College biologist Mark Davis in a recent commentary published in BioScience. He argues that plant species should be judged on their ecological merits, not on whether they are native. “Is there any evidence that the long-term survival of any native North American plant or bird species is truly being threatened by nonnative plants?” Davis asks. “I seriously doubt it.”

But the idea of giving up the fight against nonnative plants remains highly contentious. “It’s still the minority view among ecologists,” says Rodewald. And based on a growing body of research conducted by her and other scientists, continued concerns about exotic plants—particularly highly invasive species such as honeysuckle—remain justified.

Honeysuckle berries

Generalists and Specialists

Scientists are taking a closer look at the plants’ impact on birds, for example. While it’s true that abundant honeysuckle berries (right) attracted large numbers of fruit-eating songbirds in Pennsylvania, concluding that “honeysuckle is good for birds is like going to a highway rest stop, seeing starlings at a dumpster and saying that rest stops are good for birds,” says University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. Birds in the Pennsylvania study were all generalists: species that thrive when there’s more food of almost any type. Most generalists are doing well and do not need special protection or concern from conservationists.

In contrast, scientists are finding that morespecialized species are hurt by honeysuckle invasions. When Rodewald began to study how birds are faring in Ohio as suburbs increasingly bump up against remnants of forest, she noticed that some specialists, including the Acadian flycatcher, avoid areas with a dense honeysuckle understory altogether.

Tallamy’s research shows that birds also may be harmed indirectly because nonnative plants affect insects. He has found that the number and diversity of plant-eating insects, especially caterpillars, drops dramatically when exotic plants invade. That’s not a problem for species such as catbirds that eat a variety of worms, spiders and other food. But warblers and chickadees rely on caterpillars for 90 percent of their diet during the breeding season, eating hundreds per day. “That’s a lot of insects,” Tallamy says. “If you don’t have those insects, you don’t have the birds.”

Lured Toward Predators

Rodewald’s latest research suggests that even generalists like cardinals may be harmed. She began the work, she says, with an observation that “honeysuckle seemed to be contributing to higher predation rates.” To figure out why, she and her students set up observation posts in 14 forests in central Ohio, hiring a landscaping company to laboriously clear honeysuckle from several 5-acre plots. For the following six years, more than a dozen students and technicians (along with video cameras) watched what happened to 888 cardinal nests during the breeding seasons, observing each nest at least every few days. “It was a ton of work,” recalls Rodewald.

Their painstaking observations paid off, providing a clear picture of how honeysuckle affects cardinals. Typically in the wild, male cardinals that are in the best condition grab the best territories and nesting spots and breed earliest in the year. They also successfully rear more young than their less-fit competitors—an example of natural selection at work.

But this pattern changes when honeysuckle invades a forest. Because honeysuckle leafs out sooner in spring than most plants, the fittest cardinals rush to mate and nest in the shrubs’ dense foliage. But instead of a gain in reproductive success, these birds pay a price. The early nesters in honeysuckle rear 20 percent fewer young than those that nest in native plants.

The reason? Predation, as Rodewald initially suspected. Perhaps because the first nests in honeysuckle are just about the only nests in a forest, locating them is easier for predators such as raccoons, hawks and crows. Parasitic cowbirds (which kick cardinal eggs out of nests and replace them with their own) also disproportionately affect early nesters. “Nests in honeysuckle are especially vulnerable to predation early in the breeding season, a time widely considered to be the most favorable for raising young,” Rodewald says. “Breeding in honeysuckle seems to flip natural selection. It is a kind of ecological trap.”
A cardinal spreads its wings

Feather Color and Fitness

The story does not end there. As part of her study, Rodewald’s team also captured cardinals (left) in mist nets and collected feathers from 280 birds. The researchers then photographed the feathers and used computer software to measure both the shade of red and the intensity of color in each

feather.Normally, males with deeper, redder color are the most fit because they’ve been able to find food sources rich both in nutrients and the carotenoid pigments that make feathers red. But Rodewald discovered that in urban and suburban areas with a lot of honeysuckle, the normal relationship between fitness and color breaks down. She suspects honeysuckle berries, unlike the berries of native plants, contain abundant pigments but are poor in the protein and fat birds need for energy and fitness.

The result: Honeysuckle “reduces the value of plumage brightness as a sign of male quality,” Rodewald says. “To a female, a bright red male would normally be a cue that this is a guy she wants to be with, because she will fledge more young. Instead, the cue is meaningless in cities.” (The availability of birdseed in urban areas—which contains plenty of nutrients but fewer carotenoid pigments—also may contribute to the disconnect between feather color and fitness.)

Bird populations will not suddenly crash because of honeysuckle and other nonnatives whose “devastating impacts on insects and plants are so obvious you can count them,” says Rodewald. “With the birds, the effects of invasives can be much more nuanced and more subtle—and may be taking longer to play out.”

Importance of Insects

But over time, these effects could add up. Tallamy is particularly concerned about specialists such as warblers that depend on plant-munching insects. “My prediction is that birds that specialize on insect herbivores will take a bigger hit than those that eat other insects,” he says.

Tallamy points out that it’s not even clear which birds would be most affected because scientists still do not know which species depend on herbivorous insects. That’s why he recently spent 16 days watching a chickadee nest in his backyard, learning that it took 4,800 caterpillars to raise a single clutch of chicks. Tallamy has now put out a call to nature photographers for images of birds with insects in their beaks to try and pin down what various species eat.

Such efforts should help scientists better understand the threat nonnative plants pose to birds and other wildlife. “While many nonnative plants are fairly benign, others can be ecologically destructive,” says botanist Bruce Stein, NWF’s director of climate change adaptation. “We need to pick our battles wisely by figuring out which ones we can live with and which, if left unattended, will undermine our ecosystems.”

Meanwhile, homeowners can help by planting native trees and other plants in their yards. “We are so used to hearing disastrous environmental news, and it often seems there is little that one person can do,” says Tallamy. “But I’ve been going all over the country saying that you can do something. You can change the plants in your yard.” The caterpillars and the birds will thank you.

NWF Priority: Stopping Invasives

For decades, combating the threat posed to native biodiversity by harmful invasive species has been a top NWF priority. With support from the Turner Foundation, the Federation during the past several years has worked closely with its partners in the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS), employing a variety of tactics, from scientific research and policy advocacy to grassroots activism and public education. Recent NECIS victories include: new U.S. Coast Guard regulations to slow introduction of invasives from ship ballast water discharges, an import ban of five harmful constrictor snake species under the U.S. Lacey Act and introduction in the House of Representatives of legislation strengthening U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority to screen and regulate the live animal trade to prevent imports of potential new invaders. To learn more, go to

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