Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Prairie Transitions

Clearing cedars from the prairie and barren openings generally resulted in an abrupt change from open sunny conditions to dark shade. Since my initial goal was to bring sunlight to those areas in the greatest need, I stopped cutting at the point where the fields began to change to woods. The change from one habitat type was as abrupt as going through a doorway into another room.

The grasses thrived in the increased light and the woods continued pretty much as before. As a strategy for improving conditions for grassland species, my methods were successful.

I failed, however, to provide for those plants that thrive in the transitional zones between full sun and full shade. That group of plants includes some of the rarities found here, so it becomes a priority for me to provide a more gradual transition so as to host a broader range of plant species. Increasing plant diversity should then result in a more diverse animal population. Think tiny animals.

Most of the work to gradualize (I sometimes make up words) the transition between areas will involve removal of more cedars in and along the woodland edge. Following this, removal of some deciduous branches may be needed. The woods will still maintain an almost closed canopy. Most of the light entering the transitional zone during the summer will come from low angle sunlight or reflection from the open field.

Work on transition zones will be a part of my updated 2011-2015 management plan. Before doing any cutting, I’ll have to go through and inventory existing conditions. In order to evaluate any type of management work, it’s essential that you know as much as possible about conditions existing prior to manipulation. You can’t monitor change if you don’t know where you started.

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