After fire and flood… what next? Weeds!

Larimer County has experienced two major natural disasters in the last two years, fire and flood. Natural disasters cause disturbance. From an ecosystem point of view, disturbance is anything that disrupts the existing plant and animal community. Ecosystems have an amazing ability to recover from disturbance. Sometimes an ecosystem will return to its original state. Often, disturbance provides opportunities for new species to move in.

Ellen Nelson
Larimer County Weed District

Fires and floods bring additional human-caused disturbances: fire fighting equipment and crews accessing remote areas; emergency road construction; helicopter water drops from diverse locations (possibly containing weed seed); road reconstruction including transporting gravel and rock (also likely to contain weed seed); the movement of construction equipment and crews; even rehabilitation and restoration work can cause additional disturbance. Simply the act of disturbing the soil can give seeds that were dormant in the soil for years an opportunity to germinate. If controlled before they flower and produce seed, the seed bank of these undesirable plants can be significantly depleted.

Disturbance is an open invitation for weeds and bare ground is the welcome mat. From the point of view of soil stabilization and revegetation, any plant that puts roots in the ground is a good thing. But, when invasive noxious weeds visit, they tend to move in, take over and become obnoxious guests that refuse to leave. Their presence in overwhelming numbers can prevent native vegetation from recovering and reestablishing.

The best approach to slowing disturbance-induced weed infestations is to identify any new plants on your property. If it is new to your property, and it is not a native plant, it should probably be your highest priority to control. The Larimer County Weed District provides advice to landowners on managing noxious weeds. A comprehensive guide to Larimer County’s Noxious Weeds can be found on the Larimer County Weed District’s website, http://www.larimer.org/weeds/. The Weed District provides free site visits, plant identification, advice on controlling noxious weeds, and land and pasture management guidelines. Contact the Larimer County Weed District at 970-498-5768

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