Getting Traction Against Invasive Plants

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Study: ROW Crews Should Focus on Tires, Boots, and More

In 2013–2014, EPRI funded research at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry on the movement of invasive exotic plant seeds and other “propagules” at 61 power line right-of-way work sites across New York. The upshot: After each work session, it is important to clean vehicles, particularly tires and tracks operated on wet soils.

Invasive exotic plants degrade habitats, reduce biodiversity, and result in billions of dollars of economic losses annually in the United States. Given their presence in many rights-of-way, states increasingly require crews in these corridors to reduce the inadvertent spread.

Key findings from the New York study:

  • Personnel and vehicles almost always moved propagules, with rates of 10–1000 per mile of work.
  • There were up to 126 times more propagules loaded on vehicles than on personnel.
  • Tires and tracks carried as much as 5 times more propagules than other parts of vehicles.
  • Vehicles on wet sites moved 11 to 200 times more propagules than vehicles on dry sites.
  • Washing vehicles with water helped to remove propagules.

EPRI’s work is part of a broader portfolio of research on integrated vegetation management in power line corridors. This informs the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council, an accreditation program for power companies based on EPRI’s standards for assessing performance of integrated vegetation management on rights-of-way.

Artwork by Kirk Anderson