Andover students combat invasive species

·2 min read

Aug. 4—On a sunny Thursday morning, a few dozen kids involved with South Church headed to Dug Pond to help clean up the area.

While the group cleared brush and branches, they also took time to combat the handful of invasive species that have made the area around the pond their home. The project was part of the "summer of service" program, a week-long camp where students participate in service projects.

"This whole place was just a tangle of bittersweet and other invasive (species)," said Bob Douglas, the director of conservation for the town. "It's really been a huge success. It has totally transformed the ecology of the area."

Eddie Stump, a 19-year-old an intern at the church, said the main invasive species the group has been working to combat is called American bittersweet.

"It's this vine that goes up trees and tangles them and brings them down. It kills everything," said Stump.

Other problem plants are honeysuckle and buckthorn.

Douglas said buckthorn causes problems when birds eat the berries, because they contain no nourishment.

"They find themselves on their migratory flight and they just drop out of the sky dead because they don't have enough calories," he said.

Douglas pointed out that past projects have included planting blueberry bushes.

Ellen Townson has been the overseer of Dug Pond for 12 years.

Townson said she has seen a decrease in native plants and an increase in invasive species around the pond due to climate change. However, she said, the students' work is making an impact.

"We have been tackling this for years, and every year we got a little bit further and a little bit further," she said.

Towson said it has been a cooperative effort with nearby property owners, who have been working on combating invasive species on their own.

"Invasive species, they travel and they encroach and they grow," Townson said.

Another service project had students volunteering with Bread and Roses, an organization that provides community meals and more services in Lawrence.