Looking at ecological restoration projects 10 years old or more, it’s not difficult to see which have been cared for and others that have gone unloved.
Invasive species is usually the tell-tale sign. In Midwestern woodlands, it’s European buckthorn and invasive honeysuckle. In wetlands, invaders like reed canary grass, purple loosestrife and phragmites will be found, if left unchecked. In the East, South, West, and in many specific areas, hundreds of invasive species are significant threats to natural areas.
It is to be expected that natural area restorations will need to fend off the exotic competitors. And that if annual monitoring and O+M “repairs” are not made, the non-native species with no natural control agents will win. And the value of the property – ecologically, recreationally, and economically – will decline.
Low-maintenance repairs are not costly, however, and with a science-based adaptive management plan in place, sustainable natural area restorations actually decline in maintenance cost as they mature.