File this under "Jobs, Least Wanted": researchers from Dominican University of California and the National Park Service are studying the potential spread of invasive plants via - you guessed it - horse poop. According to this article from msnbc, the study involves collecting horse feces, extracting any seeds from it, and planting the seeds to test for geminability and growth. The study follows concern from park officials that horses in the parks have been contributing to the spread of some invaders. Really though, it is the pathway of introduction [horse owners] that is likely most important here, rather than the pathway of spread [the horses]). The researchers hope to be address these issues and also encourage the production of ecologically safer feed and hay. No noxious weed species have yet been found, and so far only one invasive species has been observed. For more information, you can access the original press release here.
This is an interesting story. I had already heard about the damages caused by offroad vehicles and snowmobiles in national parks, but this adds even greater threat to national parks with the Bush administration's current objective to commericalize the parks. National parks are meant to be preserves for our nation's wildlife. The last thing they need is people disturbing the soil and bringing in nonnatives with domesticated animals and offroad vehicles. This is a major pathway of introduction which could virtualy eliminate the purpose of national parks.
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