Reforestation project in progress at Stono River County Park after nonnative insect infestation

Source: Live 5
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:00 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 7:20 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new reforestation project is underway at Stono River County Park on Johns Island after park officials found an infestation of a nonnative insect species there.

Asian longhorned beetles were discovered in the park in the summer of 2020, according to Adam Ronan, the Land Resource Planner for Charleston County Parks. These insects target and kill hardwood trees and are very destructive to parks, he says.

“It’s important our parks don’t have invasive species, which range from insects to plants, because it really destroys our native habitats,” Ronan says. “As the native habitat recedes or diminishes, it reduces habitat for wildlife and other native flora and fauna, so it’s important we keep the health of our forest and our woods intact.”

Since the discovery of the insects, park officials and partnering organizations have removed about 50 mature hardwood trees infested by the beetles —mostly red maples and elms. Removing the trees, however, meant destroying habitat for wildlife and reducing the amount of shade there is for visitors, Ronan says.

Now, Charleston County Parks, Clemson Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are involved in a multi-phase project to replace and restore the trees and shrubbery lost while ridding the park of the beetles.

One phase of the project has just wrapped up, according to Ronan, which involved planting native bareroot tree seedlings, most of which are oaks.

Now they will be planting mature, native trees and shrubs throughout the Stono River County Park.

“The general idea is to give nature a boost here, so over time nature will take its course and start to evolve naturally in terms of new growth,” Ronan says. “We’re going to start looking at installing some interpretive signage at the park. This will better help the public better understand exactly what the issues are at Stono, learn a little bit more about the Asian longhorned beetle and nonnative invasives as well.”

They believe they have taken care of the beetle problem at Stono River County Park but will continue working with the USDA to monitor that park, as well as the Caw Caw Interpretive Center, to make sure the infestation does not spread to other parks, according to Ronan.

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