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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Bergen Swamp, Bergen, New York, USA

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Bergen Swamp, Bergen, New York, USA
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Registered: December 2010
City/Town/Province: Bergen
Posts: 1
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As a sophomore in high school, I took a chemistry class with a teacher who inspired me to do a project that would help preserve the environment. This teacher is a passionate environmentalist and the vice president of a society that protects and preserves a local swamp. Every year he invites a small number of students to create and execute projects that will help protect this wetland. After learning more about the Bergen Swamp, I was extremely curious and overwhelmingly passionate to protect this magnificent place!
The Bergen Swamp is a wetland located in Genesee County, New York State. The Bergen Swamp is managed by the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society (BSPS) which was chartered in 1936 by the New York State Board of Regents as a living museum. In 1964, the Bergen Swamp was recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Today it is recognized as a Class One Freshwater Wetland by the federal government, and a New York State-protected wetland. This swamp is the unique refuge to a large number of different species. There are 2,545 different species of flora in a relatively small area – 1,950 acres. Many of these species are considered rare, threatened, or endangered by New York State, including the small white ladyslipper (Cypripedium candidum) and Houghton’s goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii).
In 1998 the invasive species Phragmites australis was discovered for the first time in the Bergen Swamp. Phragmites grows up to six meters in height, and in colonies of high-density reeds. Their rhizomes grow as a thick mat that competes with the roots of other native plants for nutrients. These plants are also stressed by the lack of sunlight due to shading by the tall reeds. Though Phragmites are growing unchecked in much of the northeast, they are a grave concern in the Bergen Swamp due to the threat that they pose to the rare, endangered, and threatened plant species that reside there.
In order to protect these plants, however, the BSPS first needed an idea of the number and size of the Phragmites colonies.
So, from mid-May to September 2008, I mapped Phragmites colonies in a part of the Bergen Swamp known as the open secondary marl. I explored, appraised, and mapped each colony around its perimeter, which was defined as the area within which the reeds’ density was great enough to establish a deadly canopy over the native flora. Big colonies in which it was easy to become lost were divided into smaller parcels for mapping. Surveyors’ flagging tape was placed at various places along the perimeter of each colony to identify each mapped colony. A Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx handheld unit was used to determine waypoints for mapping each colony. A waypoint was taken every thirty steps around the colony and at each bend or corner in the perimeter. I wrote down each waypoint’s coordinates in a lab notebook along with the waypoint identification number, colony number, and date.
Then, after each colony was mapped, I went back and determined the density of each colony. Three density measurements were taken from each colony. For each Phragmites density measurement, a one-square-meter collapsible template was placed in a random location within the colony. I then counted and recorded the number of live invasive and native reeds within the square, recorded a GPS waypoint, and took a picture of each location in which the square was placed. Using the data I collected, I calculated the average density of invasive, native, and total reeds for each colony.
I created a map of all of the data I collected (including colony size, location, and density) using a program called ArcGIS. I then transferred that data into a Microsoft Access database called WIMS that was created by the Nature Conservancy which I tailored to fit the needs of the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society. The WIMS Database contains a maintenance tool that allows existing colonies to be updated as well as report tools that help organize and track various weed occurrences by plant type, location, and treatments. Because of this project, the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society now knows that about 27% of the open secondary marl area where I researched is covered by Phragmites colonies; with an average colony density of 16 invasive reeds per square meter. Since then, BSPS officers have taken steps to secure a license that will allow them to apply pesticides in a safe manner to Phragmites reeds.
I have an extreme sense of pride that I was able to support the BSPS in their mission of protecting the Bergen Swamp ecosystem and the rare species it contains. People from all over the world come to the Bergen Swamp in order to go on “pilgrimages” every spring to admire the small white ladyslipper flower. Others from our community enjoy bird-watching in the swamp, and biology students from the local high school take a field trip there every year. Hopefully, because of the research I have done and the BSPS’s continued efforts of Phragmites eradication, people from western New York and the entire country will be able to enjoy the rare beauty of the Bergen Swamp for years to come. Another result of this project is that I have truly discovered my passion for the natural world. I am now nineteen years old and in college as an earth science education major; and someday I hope to inspire middle-school children to discover a similar passion for nature that will drive them to make their own efforts to preserve our amazing earth.
Date: December 20, 2010 Views: 6795 File size: 77.4kb, 352.8kb : 720 x 540
Hours Volunteered: 460
Volunteers: 3
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 19 & 16 to 50
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 12.24
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