Re: “Deadwood forest” [Autumn 2006]

The print and broadcast coverage of this spring’s garlic mustard story was disheartening, to say the least.

Dawn Bazely, a York University biologist and an expert on invasive plants, has been keeping a close eye on garlic mustard for more than a decade, watching as it marches inland from the tip of Point Pelee.

At the point of its farthest advance, where it has just arrived, garlic mustard overwhelms the competition, just as Sharon Oosthoek reports [“Deadwood forest,” Autumn 2006, page 9]. But where it first came ashore, at its oldest sites, native plants seem to have adapted and garlic mustard is just one component in plant communities that include thriving hardwood seedlings; the native recovery seems to advance with the age of the other sites.

Professor Bazely also noticed that disturbed forest sites seem especially vulnerable to the invader. Guelph’s and Harvard’s test plots of soil moved there from elsewhere certainly qualify as disturbed and were too new for the recovery Professor Bazely has observed in natural settings.

Researchers who are too quick to declare that the sky is falling turn us into skeptics when they turn out to be wrong. Remember purple loosestrife?

– Neil Campbell, Minden