Watershed Conservation Corps—Jordan Creek Invasive Species Removal…Not Just For Looks.
The impacts that urban development have had upon our local waterways are well-studied and recognized. They are also now quite intuitively grasped by even the uninitiated. However, this local understanding has little to do with chance (less than 100 years ago people and businesses were using the Jordan Creek as a toilet). That even our youth now see correlation between development and water-harm is due only to half a century of hard work and education. For us in Springfield, we can thank Loring Bullard, Carrie Lamb, Barbara Lucks, Jeff Birchler, James River Basin Partnership, and many others, for working so diligently to make the gap between impairment and cause, between water quality and urbanization, so small, understandable, and solvable.
For our part, Watershed Conservation Corps has been working with local partners to continue this rich legacy of sustaining and improving Jordan Creek. For the past month the WCC has worked to restore a one mile stretch of Jordan Creek’s riparian corridor that runs parallel to Kansas Expressway between Mt. Vernon Street and Grand. While this portion of Jordan Creek was spared the fate of the concrete and development that saw sections of the creek completely enclosed just a mile upstream, it has its own, and perhaps equally detrimental, problems—invasive species.
The correlative strength between water quality and invasive species has grown increasingly high over the past decade. Science is showing that certain species, when grown in such disproportionate volume to other flora, can impact riparian areas in a way that are not dissimilar to industrialization and urbanization. Invasive species characteristics like defoliation rate/period, allelopathic effects of plant material, nutrient uptake, increased photoperiod, root structure, forest succession suppression, etc. have measurable impacts on our water. In fact, studies are showing that with the influx of invasive species within riparian corridors, water quality, and the biological indicators that are related to impairment, are becoming damaged—one author suggesting that “wintercreeper (an invasive species) infested
riparian areas within the Midwest behave, ecologically, in a similar fashion to parking lots.”
The point here is that while invasive species management projects in sensitive areas still find themselves routinely relegated to the domains of ideology or aesthetics, the science is trending in an altogether different direction. There is no need to appeal to some “pre-Columbian hope” as a justification for these types of projects—neither a need to take-up an indefensible ideological position that would have us indebted to a “mother earth” or something equally as fallacious. Invasive species treatment projects in riparian areas find their justification in the same category as our other proven approaches to water protection—through their propensity to abate conditions related to impairment.
We’re excited that our local leaders are taking steps to add invasive control into their arsenal of water improvement strategies, and we’re honored that we can bring our expertise to table, while educating and employing youth at the same time.
-Caleb Sanders, Watershed Conservation Corps Director