Friday, January 23, 2015

Wissahickon Watershed Assn. Completes Insect Study In Watershed

Over 955 species of insects were discovered amid the 1,300 acres of forest, fields and wetlands in the preserves managed by the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association in Montgomery County..
The study conducted in the spring and summer of 2014 by BR Environmental was the first of its kind of the Wissahickon Creek watershed in decades. The 2014 yearlong study highlighted the wealth of insects species identified in the field.
Some highlights include the discovery of three rare insects that at the Crossways Preserve that are the chief pollinators of the rare Ragged Fringed Orchid. Juniper Hairstreak, a rare butterfly in Pennsylvania, was also discovered in the same Preserve.  
The site with the greatest number of species is near Parkside in Upper Gwynedd Township where the Green Ribbon Trail runs parallel with the Wissahickon Creek.
Counting the number of species of animals and plants (inventories of fauna and flora) is a good way to understand the ecological health of an area.  With the increase of development coupled with the loss of open space and wildlife habitat of recent decades usually results in a decline of the variety of species that live in an area.
“Insects are vital organisms; they are at the bottom of the food chain. All sorts of birds and animals rely on insects for food,” said John Ferro, Manager of Conservation Resources Program for the WVWA.  “Many plants cannot be pollinated without bees, wasps and flies. Our nature preserves are healthier and wilder if there is a great variety insect species.”
The study pointed to present threats to the local ecosystem. It highlighted the explosive increase in exotic plants that have replaced native vegetation. Callery pear, multiflora rose and stilt grass cover wide areas and types of plants that native insects avoid feeding upon. Sustaining native beneficial insects such as bees, wasps, butterflies and dragonflies requires a proactive approach in controlling deer, exotic plants and mowed lawns.
Along with the Natural Resources Inventory conducted in 2013 by the Morris Arboretum, the WVWA has completed an amphibian and reptile inventory and will have mammal study beginning this spring. The information will be used to develop wildlife habitat management plans for the WVWA Preserves.
The full report is available online.
For more information, visit the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association website.

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