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West Chester President Greg Weisenstein recently welcomed Forest Service representatives to the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies (GNA), which the regional arm of the agency has chosen as a best practices site for managing invasive species.
Guest of honor was Northeast Deputy Director Anne Hoover, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, State and Private Forestry, Forest Health Protection, Washington Office. Hoover and her team are touring select sites in the mid-Atlantic and New England areas to gauge the health of the region’s forests and hear about best practices.
A nearly 100-acre wooded parcel below Farrell Stadium on South Campus, the Gordon Natural Area is dedicated to education, research and monitoring, protecting biodiversity and active outreach to the University’s regional partners, including the Forest Service.
Calling the site an "ecological sanctuary," Gerry Hertel, stewardship manager for the GNA, guided Hoover and other guests on a forest tour, along with University biologist Harry Tiebout, who is faculty administrator for the GNA. Hertel explained, "Our work on the effects of deer, non-native plants, non-native insects and diseases that attack and kill trees, and non-native earthworms helps us and others to manage their forests to maximize all benefits, including carbon storage, stormwater management, and habitats for plants and animals."
The most visible anti-pest projects are a purple trap to monitor the emerald ash borer and a black trap for the Asian longhorned beetle. Each trap hangs from a tree along the lane that traverses the GNA. West Chester has partnered with the Forest Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on both projects.
Hertel provided an overview of other projects conducted in the GNA since the area became a protected site in 1973. Among the activities that target invasive species are regular garlic mustard pulls and surveys of the effects of deer and invasive plants on native trees (also supported by the Forest Service and the PADCNR).
The Gordon Natural Area not only supports a great range of life including plant, fungal, avian and vertebrate, but also serves as a natural laboratory for various environment-related courses. Annually, approximately 1,000 University and other students enroll in classes with components that take place in the GNA.
"The Gordon Natural Area is a unique resource that we are very fortunate to be able to preserve within a relatively densely populated part of the Commonwealth," notes WCU President Greg Weisenstein. "It serves the greater community as an educational site, provides opportunities for recreation, and adds to the ecosystem of the region."
Click here to visit the Gordon Natural Area’s Facebook page.