CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – A new reforestation project is underway in Stono River County Park on Johns Island after park officials discovered an infestation of a non-native insect species there.
Asian beetles were discovered in the park in the summer of 2020, according to Adam Ronan, the Charleston County Parks Land Resource Planner. These insects target and kill hardwoods and are very destructive to parks, he says.
“It’s important that our parks aren’t home to invasive species, which range from insects to plants, because it’s really destroying our native habitats,” Ronan says. “As native habitat recedes or decreases, it reduces habitat for wildlife and other native flora and fauna, so it’s important that we keep the health of our forest and woodlands intact.”
Since the insects were discovered, park officials and partner organizations have removed about 50 mature hardwoods infested with the beetles, mostly red maples and elms. Removing the trees, however, meant destroying wildlife habitat and reducing the amount of shade for visitors, Ronan says.
Now, Charleston County Parks, Clemson Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture are involved in a multi-phase project to replace and restore trees and shrubs lost during beetle removal in the park.
One phase of the project has just been completed, according to Ronan, which involved planting seedlings of native bare-root trees, most of which are oaks.
Now they will be planting mature native trees and shrubs throughout Stono River County Park.
“The general idea is to give nature a boost here, so that over time nature will take its course and start to evolve naturally in terms of new growth,” says Ronan. “We are going to start looking at installing interpretive signs in the park. This will better help the public better understand exactly what the issues are at Stono, learn a bit more about the Asian longhorned beetle and non-native invasive species as well.
They believe they have fixed the beetle problem at Stono River County Park, but will continue to work with the USDA to monitor this park, as well as the Caw Caw Interpretive Center, to ensure the infestation does not spread. not at other parks, according to Ronan.
Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.