Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park

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Invasive Species

Some of the links on this page are to documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) that can only be viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download a free copy from the Adobe site.

Non-native plants and animals cause problems for many native species on the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR). Protected and relatively undisturbed for the past 60 years, the ORR has changed considerably since 1942 when it was acquired as part of the Manhattan project. At that time about half of the land was cleared and cultivated. Those cleared areas have gradually returned to forest through plantings and natural succession. Now about 70% of the reservation is in mature or maturing native habitats. However, invasive, non-native plants and animals often impact these areas.


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Of the over 1,100 vascular plant species found on the ORR, 168 species are non-native, and 54 of them have been identified as aggressive. A report identified the 18 most problematic non-native species for natural areas (i.e., ORR habitats with rare plants or wildlife). Invasive plants on the ORR have spread from old home site plantings, well-intentioned erosion control efforts, forage enhancement projects, and adjacent farm or residential property.

A short overview of the invasive plant issue at the ORR is found in the research park brief Invasive Plants on the Oak Ridge Reservation.

Management Plan

An invasive plants management plan has been developed to evaluate the issue on the ORR and define strategies to meet the overall goal of reducing such plants. A major goal of the plan is to control invasive plants in areas (1) identified as important (e.g., natural areas, areas with cultural resources), (2) where such efforts can make a difference, and (3) that are major routes of dispersal (e.g., roads).

The final goal of managing non-native plants is to restore an area to a more natural habitat. In most cases on the ORR successful removal of invasive species allows the surrounding native vegetation to spread into the newly opened area and become reestablished. In some cases, however, especially where extensive monocultures of a particular invasive species have become established, more extensive restoration efforts may be required. Successful treatment of invasive species (e.g., kudzu) that completely occupy extensive areas may result in large open areas where surface erosion can become a problem before native species have time to become naturally reestablished. In those cases species native to the ORR are planted.

To assure that restoration is taking place, treated areas are monitored for success, and invasive species are retreated, if needed. As experience is gained with treatment techniques and optimum timing, treatment strategies for invasive species on the ORR are refined for maximum effectiveness. A presentation in 2006 provided information on the ORR invasive plant control program since its inception. An update on the program detailed progress through 2009 and described plans for 2010.

As noted in the management plan, the best time to control an invasive species is when it first appears. Thus, in 2009 when spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) was first seen on the ORR, the infestation was controlled by spraying the plants. Monitoring of the cedar barren area in which the species was found will determine whether the treatment was successful. If necessary, the area will be retreated.

Demonstration Projects

A number of projects demonstrating management of invasive plants on the ORR have been initiated. Click on the project name (in red) to view information and photographs about each project.


ETTP Railroad KudzuBlair Road Kudzu Bear Creek Road Kudzu Raccoon Creek Cedar Barrens Bethel Valley Kudzu White Oak Riparian Freels Bend Kudzu Scarboro Creek Purple Loosestrife Scarboro Road Kudzu



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Information about some invasive animals on the ORR can be found in the following documents:

Managing Nuisance Animals on the Oak Ridge Reservation (April 2009) (Note that some of the animals discussed in this biobrief are native species.)

Pests Affecting the Ecosystems on the Oak Ridge Reservation (April 2009) (Note that some of the animals discussed in this biobrief are native species.)

Hemlock Woolly Adelgids are here! (February 2008)

ORNL Imported Fire Ant Update (July 2006)

Fire Ants on the Oak Ridge Reservation (September 2004)

Be Alert for Fire Ants at ORNL (August 2004)


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The Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council provides a list of Invasive Exotic Pest Plants in Tennessee.

Find links to internet resources with more information about invasive plants and animals.

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Last Updated: March 11, 2011