You may have noticed our small golf carts making their way through the Park this summer. Or perhaps you have seen small groups of people in the field, busily pulling invasive plant species. These efforts are part of our Vegetation Management Program at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. In partnership with Alberta Parks, we work hard to ensure that invasive species are kept under control, and hopefully over time, eradicated from the grasslands.
This year, we are grateful for support from the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA). ACA is funding our Vegetation Management Assistant summer position and they are also supporting biocontrol efforts through the purchase and release of weevils. Root weevils (Mogulones crucifer) are host-specific beetles that feed directly on houndstongue, an invasive plant found in the Park. The adult beetles are released in the spring or early summer and fly to the nearest patch of houndstongue. Adult weevils lay eggs into the above-ground vegetation and then the larvae hatch and move down into the roots. Eventually the larvae eat away at the root hairs and roots and cause the Hound’s Tongue plant to die. Weevils are used in conjunction other control methods, like hand-pulling, to contribute to invasive species population declines.
Our Vegetation Management Team is also specifically focusing on Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis) this year. Brome is a non-native grass species used as an agricultural crop for hay throughout Canada. Unfortunately, it rapidly spreads and can take over grasslands by excluding native fescue species. The team has been mapping out the interface between Brome patches and fescue patches in the park to learn where to focus future control efforts. We will also be using a wicking method, applying a concentrated dose of herbicide applied directly to the stalks of the brome like a paintbrush. Our Vegetation Management Team Lead Blake has adapted existing wicking boom designs to create a wider, longer reaching hand held device suitable to Glenbow topography. While the rapid spring flowering and seeding of the brome has meant that we have been able to use the wicking method, we have been able to record nearly all of the brome population location throughout the park using a Trimble and a special data collection application. We hope to commence the wicking application in early spring 2020.
If you see our team in the park, thank them for diligently trying to keep Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park the stunning, ecologically diverse park that you see. And a big thank you to ACA for supporting this important work!