Volunteers Restore the Forests at Cape May Point State Park

Volunteers help remove invasive plants at CMPSP

New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship staff have been working to restore maritime forest in Cape May Point State Park since 2011, and much of the success can be attributed to the hard work of dedicated volunteers. On a cold, rainy Saturday in April, a group of volunteers joined NJ Audubon staff and state park staff in removing garlic mustard and other non-native invasive plants from the Seagrove Avenue restoration site. The group’s hard work, which resulted in a dump truck full of invasive plants, is critical to the restoration of this unique ecosystem. 

Volunteers help restore maritime forest at CMPSPThe Cape May Peninsula is known around the world for its migratory bird concentrations while also providing habitat for many rare species, including the state endangered Cope’s Gray treefrog. Maritime forests found on the peninsula are unique plant communities comprising of coastal dune woodlands and forested uplands, which provide vital resources for the Peninsula’s migrant and resident wildlife. In Cape May, many of these forests have become degraded due to invasive planGarlic Mustardts that threaten biodiversity and ecosystem structure. For this restoration project, NJ Audubon and Cape May Point State Park aim to improve ecosystem health by removing invasive plants while preserving mature trees and encouraging new native growth. A combination of hand weeding, forestry mowing, and herbicide application has been implemented, a strategy that has shown to be effective in combating invasive plants. This integration of techniques has already shown great success, including regeneration of native black cherry, sassafras, and aster. 

New garlic mustard growth blankets the forest floorFor this particular volunteer event, the team focused on hand pulling garlic mustard, a widespread invasive plant that produces abundant seeds in its second year. This plant is also known to change the composition of the soil by interfering with mycorrhizal fungi, or fungi of the root zone, which help many plants uptake essential minerals. These characteristics help garlic mustard out-compete native species, leading to limited plant diversity on the forest floor. Pulling these plants before they go to seed can help decrease garlic mustard and increase native regeneration, biodiversity, and resources for many wildlife species. Volunteers fill an entire dump truck with invasive plants

Although this is a long-term project that requires careful monitoring and diligence, the positive results seen each year are a testament to the hard work performed by our dedicated volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering for NJ Audubon on this project, please contact Kristen Meistrell at (609) 861-1608 ext. 29 or kristen.meistrell@njaudubon.org. This project has been made possible through funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Atlantic City Electric, and the William Penn Foundation.