Volunteers Help Remove Invasive Plants at the Cape Island Important Bird Area

Two volunteer workdays took place last week at the Cape Island Important Bird Area (IBA) - both aimed at reducing invasive plants that are overtaking habitat. Located at the very tip of NJ, the Cape Island IBA is about 15,000 acres in size and includes a variety of habitat types. This IBA serves as a major migratory stopover site- millions of birds utilize Cape Island during spring and fall migration. Controlling invasive plants to increase and enhance suitable habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife on Cape Island is a stewardship priority for NJ Audubon.

On Thursday, volunteers removed invasive vines like porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), sweet-autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) and field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) from young, native trees at a maritime forest restoration site at Cape May Point State Park. This restoration project is a cooperative effort led by NJ Audubon and NJ DEP Division of Parks and Forestry to control invasive plants and support the growth and regeneration of native vegetation.

The focus for Friday: purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata) at the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows. Volunteers carefully snipped and bagged the flower heads of purple loosestrife plants before they develop seeds and spread further, while folks with thicker gloves snipped and pulled mile-a-minute, which has a prickly, thorny stem. Mile-a-minute is an emerging invasive plant in Cape Island, which means it is not yet established and widespread, and is found in small patches in the area. In addition to mile-a-minute, kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is another emerging invasive plant found on Cape Island. We employ an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy to eliminate the emerging plants immediately to lessen the likelihood that they will become widespread and established.

Cape Island has its fair share of both emerging and widespread invasive plants, and Cape May County has the highest number of reported invasive species in the state- 365 total. To address this growing threat to migratory bird habitat, NJ Audubon organized the Cape Island Habitat Restoration Task Force (CIHRTF). CIHRTF is a newly formed Coordinated Weed Management Area (CWMA), and our partners include NJ state chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC), NJ DEP Bureau of Land Management, the NJ DEP Division of Parks and Forestry, and the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team (NJISST). The mission of CIHRTF is to identify, control and monitor invasive plants, restore and improve wildlife habitat, and provide outreach and education to the community of Cape Island. CIHRTF will be hosting more volunteer events and educational workshops throughout the year- please check our webpage for the latest information!

These projects are made possible through the support from: the William Penn Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Atlantic City Electric.