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Manual removal of winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus) results in increased species richness in eastern floodplain forest, USA

An invasive species dispersing along the East Coast, USA and lacking much research on successful removal is winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus). To combat this invasion and learn more about its impact on the surrounding ecosystem, we initiated a restoration project to determine the best methods to control the species within a floodplain located along the Westfield River in Westfield, Massachusetts, USA. For this study, we intended to address the following research questions: (1) Which removal treatment, root removal or cutting, best controls E. alatus? And (2) how do different removal techniques of E. alatus impact native species establishment, vegetation community composition and other forest variables? We hypothesized (1) that root removal would best control E. alatus. And (2) that increased native species establishment would result from root removal and cutting techniques, percent cover of the canopy and shrub layers might increase plant establishment in plots with less cover, and leaf litter and bare ground percent cover may be positively related to the number of winged burning bush shrubs present in each plot. Within one year of the treatments, we found significant differences in newly established species richness and a decrease in E. alatus presence between removal plots and control plots. These results suggest that cutting or root removal can be effective removal techniques to increase species richness in sensitive areas. This is the first study to examine effectiveness of E. alatus removal techniques on community vegetation establishment.

Amber Stearns '22
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