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Home > Natural Resources > Land Management for Sustainable Communities and Natural Resources > Forestry Investments for Sustainable Land Management

Vines Take Over Southern U.S. Forest Investment

Vines have the leg up on most slower-growing temperate species (incl. trees) and they simply outcompete them.

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Creeping vines are increasingly invading Southern forests, choking out trees and altering forest makeups. Scientists say increased levels of carbon dioxide might be to blame. Just why the vines are taking over is uncertain, but scientists speculate that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations that are fueling global warming could be benefiting vine growth more than tree growth.

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The fact is, vines are excellent primary colonizers. They have the leg up on most slower-growing temperate species (incl. trees!) and they simply out-compete them. So, the physiology of the plants plays a role. But, while there could be some mysterious microscopic activity, there are several macroscopic factors that are clearly creating the opportunity for these vines and other weeds to proliferate:

1. How close are these forested areas from private land? Many vines were brought into our country as horticultural plants. Many private land owners think ivy/kudzu/looks cool growing up the side of your trees. Similarly, when old estates with once-elaborate, well-tended gardens, fall into disrepair and neglect, plants that had been previously kept at bay, start "moving." Thus, landowners have a hand in the problem.

2. What's the forests' proximity to urbanized areas? Buffers between forested land and homes are getting thinner. "Thinner" woods are more easily penetrated by vines, which is compounded by the animals that are being left with fewer shelter/food resources. Thus, city planners and the animals that rely on the trees have a hand in the problem.

3. And the kiss of death, road building? Not only do the vines/weeds come in on construction equipment but many of the weeds/vines thrive on disturbed land. This could explain why the newer forests have exponentially more vine incursions than the older forest systems. Thus, land managers/construction companies/developers have a hand in the problem.

We all need to be aware of the subtle danger in blaming global warming for all our environmental ails. Blaming global warming turns tangible problems into something intangible, distancing people from the issues and effectively absolving or removing them from taking responsibility or control.

Andrea Thompson
LiveScience Staff Writer Fri Jul 20, 11:40 AM ET

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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