May 22, 2014 | 10:53 a.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications Specialist
About 60 Bethel faculty, staff, and student volunteers gathered in May to plant 800 seedlings on campus in an effort to regain some of the forest campus lost to buckthorn, an invasive tree species. The past two autumns, Bethel has removed a significant amount of buckthorn overlooking Lake Valentine, and "now it's time to sow rather than reap," says Professor of Biology Jeff Port.
"Studies by classes and student researchers within the biology department have found that in many of our woodland areas, 100% of the young trees are buckthorn, painting a grim picture for the future of the diverse woodlands we had on campus," says Port. To combat this scenario, student and staff volunteers have worked with the biology department; Creation Restoration, a student-led environmental group; and Bethel's Facilities Management to remove buckthorn from select areas on campus. "Because buckthorn regenerates quickly and easily from cutting," explains Port, "it must either be physically removed from the soil and/or chemically treated to kill the plant." This slow, labor- intensive process has required the work of dozens of volunteers.
An anonymous donor generously provided funds to cover the purchase of 800 seedlings from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources state nursery. Volunteers planted eight native species, ranging in height from 8-18 inches, in the areas where buckthorn was removed: silver maple, black cherry, black walnut, white spruce, nannyberry, juneberry, highbush cranberry, and gray dogwood. Port praises Creation Restoration, saying the group "has been a key part of this process as well as the generous anonymous donor."