Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Managing Oak Savannas in Dane County, Wisconsin

Another submission found by Lucias Machias.

The Pleasant Valley Conservancy State Natural Area Oak Savanna.

Many posts in this blog.  Just a few pictures and quotes as teasers.

Dealing with burn scars in prairie and savanna restoration

This is the time of year when restorationists are cutting lots of brush. Often, the brush piles get fairly large, and when they are burned big sterile patches are created. How to revegetate these scars?

Here is a suggestion that came to me from an experienced contractor.

As soon as the fire is cold, use a powerful backpack leaf blower to remove all  the ashes. The goal is to make the ground completely bare.

Then hand plant each scar with a good prairie or savanna seed mix. Be sure to include several grasses as well as a dozen or so forb species. Use a high seeding rate (~50 seeds per square foot).

However, even without planting, these scars should come back, since  soil does not transfer heat well, and only the top cm or so of the burn scar will be sterile. The important thing is to get rid of the ashes.

And from

Prescribed fires play several important roles.

• Removes oak leaves and litter, opening up the soil so that plants can grow faster. This also permits planted seeds to reach the soil.
• Helps perpetuate fire-dependent species.
• Helps in control of harmful insects or diseases.
• Improves wildlife habitat.
• Enhances the appearance of the site and increases the scenic values.
• Helps improve access to the savanna, making it easier to walk the property and survey the ecosystem.
• Top-kills woody vegetation, shrubs and small trees, but does not kill the oaks. Top-killing does not eliminate the undesirable woody plants, but sets them back.
• Kills invasive conifers such as red cedar.
• Top-kills brambles.
• Consumes downed brush and branches, making it possible for fires to carry better.
• Hazardous fuel reduction.
• Recycles nutrients from the litter into the soil.

Fire is one of the most cost-effective ways of maintaining a restored savanna, but should always be used as part of an integrated management system. Fire should never be used by itself. Also, fire is not a substitute for brush removal. In fact, it is undesirable and counterproductive to burn an unrestored savanna, because fire does not eradicate brush. Burns should only be conducted after the initial major restoration work has been completed.

Equipment for prescribed burns
Suppression equipment
  • Pumping system
  • Tanks
  • Pumps
  • Hoses
  • Nozzles
  • Backpack tanks
  • Handtools
  • Swatters
  • Rakes
Ignition equipment
  • Drip torch
  • Propane torch not recommended
  • Rake
Mobility equipment
  • Trucks
  • ATVs
  • Utility vehicles   And command-control equipment....Example: radios
Prescribed burns should not be carried out without adequate equipment for the job.

And a nice PDF that discusses controlled burns to manage Oak Savannas.

Another hat-tip to Lucias.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blight Resistant American Chestnuts

Submitted by Lucas Machia.

Link to story

For over 22 years, Maynard and Bill Powell, co-directors of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry's American Chestnut Research and Restoration Center, have attempted to engineer American chestnut trees with resistance to a specific blight that has left the species almost completely extinct by the start of the 20th century. One group of trees, all clones of a cell referred to as "Darling 4," show strong resistance to the fungus.
The Darling 4 is one of 17 different genetically engineered cells that include a gene from wheat known as oxalate oxidase. While the gene does not kill the fungus, it does protect the tree from damage, Maynard said.
“Oxalate oxidase doesn’t harm the [fungus], but it will starve it,” explained Maynard. “It deactivates the acid that kills the plant, forcing the fungus to go back to being a bark parasite on the surface of the bark.”
The ultimate goal of the Research and Restoration Center is to plant thousands of fully blight-resistant trees in American forests across the country that will slowly repopulate the forests.  Powell estimates it will take about 100 years from the time the first tree is planted outside of a research station to the time the forests are fully repopulated.
 “It’s unrealistic to think we can plant enough trees to restore the ecosystem to how it used to be without letting them multiply on their own,” said Powell.  “Instead, we can plant them in memorable places in order to recreate what the scene looked like in the past, such as during the Civil War.”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Eye Candy and Composing Symphonies with a Shovel

This post is most a redirect to another webpage.

Some Habitat Improvement Pictures (Pennsylvania)

I was once told that musicians are the most gifted at managing very large projects and programming very large computer programs.  Musicians think in terms of the simultaneous development of themes over time.  They know that percussion and wood winds, brass and strings must all develop the theme in a harmonious way.  Not section of the orchestra can be put on hold.  It simply does not work.

The author of this post goes by the handle "rrroae".  He has my deepest admiration.  rrroae is a sophisticated guy.  He does not carpet bomb a plot of ground with one "super plant" and walk away.  Nope.  That would be like an orchestra of tubas, or kettle drums.  He thinks things through, used what was already in place.

He composed symphonies with a shovel. 

He also takes great photos and writes well.

"On the edges, we planted Dolgo Crabs, hazelnut, Allegheny Chinkapin and some Saul oaks."
" the pond, we've planted various oaks to include Sawtooth, Dwarf Chinkapin, Red oak and a couple varieties of Okois hybrids."
"The Dwarf Chinkapin seedlings from Superior trees were around $1 per seedling and have grown very well."
""Clearcut leaving oaks to reseed and also planted various crab seedlings."
"Added some clearcuts and planted pear, crab and apple seedlings and some dwarf chinkapin oaks. Picture only shows a fraction of the work area."
"Open woods between clearcut areas. Very diverse timber including Hard and soft maple, cherry, ash, popular, white and red oak, hickory and beech."
"Another clearcut on top of property replanted with Chinese Chestnut and Dwarf Chinkapin along edges."  
Many, many more pictures here Some Habitat Improvement Pictures