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Conservationists near end of 2-year project to remove stubborn invasive plants that wreaked havoc on park: 'These invasive species take over'

"Native plants are better for wildlife and food sources; they have just so many benefits."

"Native plants are better for wildlife and food sources; they have just so many benefits."

Photo Credit: iStock

A multiyear effort to remove invasive plants is expected to pay off in a big way by improving the water quality for residents of Topeka, Kansas. 

In March, KSNT 27 News reported that conservation organization Friends of the Kaw, or FOK, and its partners were wrapping up a two-year initiative to rewild the banks of the Kansas River. 

The project, which received funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will support the health of the area by naturally controlling erosion and filtering pollutants. Many of the native species selected have deep roots, increasing the soil's ability to soak up water and thus helping to protect against flooding. 

Shawnee County and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Native Lands Restoration Collaborative, the City of Topeka, and K-State Extension also worked to replace the troublesome species with native options.

"Both bush honeysuckle and wintercreeper are a problem for the area," FOK executive director Dawn Buehler told 27 News. "These invasive species take over. Native plants are better for wildlife and food sources; they have just so many benefits."

Another perk of native plants is that they don't require time-consuming and costly maintenance — something many homeowners have happily discovered in their own gardens. It's fair to speculate the restoration project could free up money for other investments and projects that benefit the city. 

What's more, invasives can quickly overtake an area, contributing to a loss of biodiverse plants that support pollinators. This is one issue that bush honeysuckle and wintercreeper pose for places such as Topeka. 

One out of every three bites of our food is thanks to these creatures, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making their protection a crucial part of ensuring there's enough nutrition to go around. 

And reintroducing native species can assist efforts to heal our ecosystems. In South London, for example, a river revitalization project resulted in the successful return and spawning of brown trout that had vanished from the area for more than 80 years. 

In Massachusetts, decades of habitat restoration led to the exciting discovery of a caterpillar of a rare butterfly species, which appears to have expanded its range. 

27 News noted FOK's river restoration project was scheduled to finish in June.

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