I took a nice boat ride up the Severn River last week, exploring the smaller creeks on the north side of the river and swimming in some of the deeper holes. This is the best time to explore the upper Chesapeake, before the dreaded sea nettles take over.
How does kudzu spread so fast?
Kudzu is a favorite of grazing animals like cows and goats. But the Severn — and most of the Western Shore where kudzu is running amok — has little livestock, so its benefit as free forage is pretty much non-existent.
Kudzu is, in fact, a legume or bean, and it has been used around the world, especially in the rainforests of Brazil after forest clearing, to increase the fertility of the soil. It does this by increasing the nitrogen content, pretty much the last thing the Chesapeake Bay needs. Nitrogen from fertilizers, sewer treatment plants and funky air is already turning vast stretches of the Bay into dead zones.
“People worried about kudzu invasion previously were worried about its effect on biodiversity,” said Manuel Lerdau, an environmental studies and biology professor at the University of Virginia and one of the study’s authors. “We’re saying there are more worries about kudzu than biodiversity. It has an effect on air quality and human health.”
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