Forest Restoration

Out with invasive, in with native

So what’s the big deal if that creeping ivy grows up the side of that tree? What’s the harm in allowing that Chinese privet to take root alongside native plants? These and other invasive species can have devastating effects on native plant life. Trees Atlanta is committed to helping communities remove these plants, while also promoting the growth of natural species and restoring native forests and greenspace.

It is not difficult to find the impact of invasive species on our environment. A quick walk or drive around most any neighborhood in metro Atlanta will reveal kudzu creeping across ravines and overtaking fields and hillsides. You will spot English ivy wrapped around the trunks of large trees, or Chinese privet stealing precious sunlight and water from native plants. These and other invasive species can have a harmful impact on plants, animals, and humans.

Long-term care of our urban forest is comprised of three major components; maintenance, invasive species removal, forest restoration efforts. All play a major role in realizing the goal of a healthy native plant population.

Some of the Trees Atlanta conservation programs include:

Maintenance (Urban Forestry Crew)

Once a tree is planted and the roots have taken hold, there is still plenty of work to be done. Proper care includes watering, fertilizing, mulching, pruning, weeding, and generally caring for the newly planted trees. The Trees Atlanta Urban Forestry Crew tackles such maintenance tasks, and will provide maintenance for up to three years on newly planted trees. It is an ongoing effort, with 40,000 individual tree maintenance visits each year.

Forest Restoration

Getting rid of invasive species is a big part of the equation, but to truly reclaim our natural urban forest, we must continue with efforts to restore native plants. Hundreds of acres of green space are protected inside I-285, but there has been very little progress in actually bringing back healthy native plants to these areas.

Trees Atlanta’s Forest Restoration Program is helping bring neighborhoods together to move this effort forward. These partnerships are essential to this effort, and we have made great strides with community groups in Morningside, Oakhurst, Beecher Hills, East Point, and dozens of other communities across the city.

To restore our urban forest to optimal health, it is also necessary to do away with non-native plants that siphon off precious sunlight, water, and soil nutrients from native plant life. One of the most obvious concerns is, of course, kudzu. It is not the only culprit, though. English ivy, Chinese privet, and other such plants can have devastating effects on native species, and Trees Atlanta deploys many different methods in an effort to curb and eventually eradicate these unwelcome guests.

So, what are invasive species?

 An invasive species is any species (including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagation) that is not native to a given ecosystem, and whose presence causes economic or environmental harm, or a threat to human health.

Why are invasive species a problem?

In a new environment, invasive species are free from natural predators, parasites, or competitors found in their native habitats, and they often develop very high populations. These large populations can out-compete and displace native species, or can reduce wildlife, food, and habitat. Some invasive species can reduce forest productivity by reducing tree growth rates, restricting tree seedling establishment, elevating fire hazard, and increasing site preparation costs.

What can we do about invasive species?

 Trees Atlanta hopes to restore forests to optimal health by removing invasive species and replanting those that are native to our environment. The Forest Restoration Program includes educational programs, community-based removal projects, contractor spraying and removal, and organized replanting events. Trees Atlanta has hosted two Forest Restoration conferences in recent years, and produced a greenspace manual designed to guide citizens through evaluating, protecting, and improving their community greenspaces. 

In the past, Trees Atlanta has hired 100 new four-legged employees – hungry sheep! Their one and only task is to eat and eliminate kudzu in several greenspaces throughout Atlanta.

Weeds & Wine Volunteers

 Weeds & Wine is our seasonal volunteer program. Volunteers work with our Forest Restoration team to remove invasives (weeds) among the arboretum trees, native plants, and grasses. Nearby restaurants on or within walking distance of the Atlanta BeltLine sponsor post-project refreshments for the volunteers. It’s been a very popular weekday evening volunteer opportunity, and we will be announcing the Spring 2016 schedule soon on our website and via our volunteer emails. Click here to sign up and receive our volunteer emails!

See our Maps of Our Invasive Species Removal Progress

Trees Atlanta staff and volunteers have worked diligently on removing invasive species in our greenspaces. The maps below display where our crews have worked to bring back a healthy native forest. All shapes are measured in meters. Click on areas for more information.

Morningside Nature Preserve 

Sign up as a volunteer to help us restore the following greenspaces:

  • Beecher Hills Greenway – part of a 170-acre forest in Southwest Atlanta located on the north fork of Utoy Creek. Trees Atlanta is working with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), Hands on Atlanta, the National Wildlife Federation, and other groups to restore this parcel to its natural beauty.
  • Connally Nature Park – a 30-acre forest in East Point with a dozen white oaks that are over 200 years old. Home to the largest white oak in Georgia, it also includes a rare population of Pink Lady Slippers. Trees Atlanta works with community groups to remove invasive species that threaten the health of this forest.
  • East Side Greenway – a collection of recently purchased greenspaces in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta. Trees Atlanta is working with the neighborhood association to remove invasive plants and improve the safety of these spaces.
  • Oakhurst Greenspace – a 10-acre site south of Agnes Scott College that Trees Atlanta has been restoring for 5 years with help from the Friends of Oakhurst Green Space (FROGS.) It is our most complete restoration, and we recently expanded the managed area where we remove invasives and restore native species.
  • The Morningside Nature Preserve – a 30-acre forest in the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta. In partnership with the Morningside Nature Preserve Steering Committee, the City of Atlanta, and the Nature Conservancy, Trees Atlanta is removing invasive Chinese privet and English ivy that threaten to choke off a band of native plants.