Ecological Standing Committee Meeting (May 28, 2008)

Feasibility Study for the Restoration of Native Terrestrial Plants in the Vicinity of the Niagara Gorge

Slide 1.

Feasibility Study for the Restoration of Native Terrestrial Plants in the Vicinity of the Niagara Gorge

·        Prepared by:

o       TRC Solutions

o       Riveredge Associates

o       image

Slide 2.

Overview and Background

o       Relicensing negotiations

o       Settlement agreements

o       Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs)

o       Continued input from Stakeholders

o       Development of Scope of Work

Slide 3.

Objective

o       Determine the feasibility of protecting or restoring listed rare native terrestrial plants and nonlisted native plants in the vicinity of the Niagara Gorge

o       image

Slide 4.

General Approach and Methodology

o       Develop Scope of Work with Stakeholders

o       Gather information from agencies and others

o       Identify threats to species and communities

o       Determine the relative occurrence of native and non-native vegetation

o       Identify areas where efforts might be successful

o       Identify potential cooperators

o       Identify best management practices

o       Determine the feasibility of protecting or restoring rare native plant species or native plant communities in the Niagara Gorge

Slide 5.

The Niagara Gorge

o       About seven miles long and 200 feet deep

o       Exceptional biodiversity; the greatest assemblage of rare plants in NY

o       Long history of development, industry, and tourism

o       Great Gorge Railway 1895

o       Effects evident as early as late 1800s

o       1,000,000 visitors by early 1900s

o       Today, 30,000,000 tourists each year

o       image

Slide 6.

Historical Baseline

o       Would help establish goals

o       11 Extant T&E species

o       17 Historical species

o       Four extirpated from NY

o       13 still occur in NY

o       Two occur in Erie or Niagara Co.

o       Some may occur in Canada

o       Some species were rare over 100 years ago, and some may have been extirpated by early collectors

o       Much of the original forest gone

o       Historical baseline unclear

o       Eckel (1986, 2001, 2002), Evans et al. (2001), evans and Young (NYNHP) personal communication

o       Image

Slide 7

The Current Landscape

o       Natural Communities

o       Calcareous cliff

o       Calcareous talus slope woodland

o       Other Communities

o       Commercial development

o       Park/Recreation lands

o       Successional shrublands

o       Limestone woodlands

o       Oak-hickory forest

o       RTE Species

o       From Evans et al. (2001) and Aquatic Science Associates, Inc. and E/PRO (2004)

o       Image

Slide 8

Extant T&E Species of the Niagara Gorge (status)

o       1 Lysimachia quadriflora (Four-flowered loosestrife) E

o       2 Gentianopsis virgata (Lesser fringed gentian) E

o       3 Carex garberi (Elk sedge) E

o       4 Symphyotrichum oolentangiense var. oolentangiense (Sky-blue aster) E

o       5 Liatris cylindracea (Slender blazing-star) E

o       6 Poa sylvestris (Woodland bluegrass) E

o       7 Iris virginica var. shrevei (Southern blueflag) E

o       8 Physocarpus opulifolius var. intermedius (Ninebark) E

o       9 Pellaea glabella ssp glabella (Smooth cliff brake) T

o       10 Zigadenus elegans ssp glaucus (Mountain death camas) T

o       11 Oligoneuron ohioense (Ohio goldenrod) T

Slide 9

Potential Threats

o       Recreation (trampling, climbing, collecting or picking)

o       Park/trail management practices

o       Surface water storm drain runoff and combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharge

o       Invasive alien species

o       Gull nesting colony at base of Goat Island

o       Eckel (2001), Evans et al. (2001)

Slide 10

Image

Slide 11

2 images

Slide 12

2 images

Slide 13

3 images

Slide 14

Relative Occurrence of Native and Non-native Vegetation: Methods

o       Established transects and plots using accepted methodology

o       Identified vegetation

o       Determined relative dominance

Slide 15

Native and Non-native Vegetation: Results

o       Abundance of non-native vegetation varied across sample plots

o       Plots had 0% to 100% nonnative vegetation

o       Some non-native vegetation s quite invasive

o       Common invasive species included garlic mustard, common reed, buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Norway maple

o       Image

Slide 16

Potential Candidate Sites for Protection or Restoration

o       Existing sites of RTE species

o       Low human disturbance

o       Water available

o       Accessible

o       Relatively few invasive species

o       Image

Slide 17

Potential General Locations

o       Niagara Reservation SP (Goat Island)

o       Whirlpool SP

o       DeVeaux Woods SP

o       Devil’s Hole SP

o       Earl W. Brydges Artpark SP

o       2 images

Slide 18

Is it Feasible?

o       Large-scale gorge-wide restoration of native vegetation

o       Small scale, local restoration

o       Image

Slide 19

Potential Sources of Plant Material

o       Purchase commercially

o       Seed collection

o       Nursery propagation

o       Plant or Transplant

o       Image

Slide 20

Potential Best Management Practices

o       Establish native vegetation restoration team

o       Review park and trail management

o       Develop invasive species control plan

o       Explore local hydrology

o       Review stormwater and CSO inputs

o       Promote public awareness and education

Slide 21

Potential Team Participants

o       New York Natural Heritage Program

o       New York State DEC

o       Invasive Plant Council of New York State

o       New York State OPRHP

o       New York Power Authority

o       Local organizations and stakeholders

o       Knowledgeable individuals

o       Other parties and people

o       Canadian counterparts

Slide 22

Summary

o       The landscape is very different now

o       There are significant threats to species and communities in the Niagara Gorge

o       Non-native species are common, and dominate some sites and strata

o       Management practices today are also very different

o       There are many potential cooperators or team members

o       Efforts could be successful at some sites

Slide 23

Stanley Temple’s Ancient Curse

o       Professor of Conservation and Environmental Studies, Department of Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin

o       “May you be responsible for an Urban Natural Area.”

o       Stanley Temple, 2002. Managing Urban Natural Areas, April 23, 2002

Slide 24

Managing Urban Natural Areas

o       Extremely difficult

o       Complex ecological and social issues

o       UNAs deteriorate to unnatural state

o       Require human effort to make them “natural”

o       “Naturalness” is a gradient

o       Must define and choose a level of “naturalness”

o       Often contentious, and is based on attitude towards nature

Slide 25

4 images