Monday, July 26, 2010

Breccia Area

I took a quick peek over The Hill to see what was happening in the Breccia area. This is the driest habitat at Blue Jay Barrens so it’s interesting to note how the plants react during an exceptionally wet year. The Partridge Peas are looking well, although they’re not even close to the size shown by individuals growing in good soil.

The surface of much of the Breccia area is just a crumble of limestone chips. The chips hold no water and present a most inhospitable environment for plants. In some places, grass has survived long enough to allow a type of biotic crust of lichens and algae to form over the rock. The grass is able to survive and slowly add organic material. In several thousand years, I ought to see the beginning of a good soil layer here. Maybe I’m being a little bit optimistic in believing I’ll last that long.

I have been able to notice an increase in vegetation cover over the last 25 years. It’s at this site that I like to think about the science of ecological restoration and how it applies to what I’m doing here. This Breccia hadn’t been exposed to daylight for several hundred million years until someone in the last 100 years managed to mess things up enough that all of the soil washed away. It’s highly likely that plants never before grew on these gravelly bits, so how can I possibly say that I’m restoring anything?

The grasses have made it possible for forbs to find a place to grow. The extra rainfall has allowed some Black-eyed Susan seeds to sprout. The seeds washed down from a deeper soil area upslope, but there’s no way they will survive when it once again turns dry. The tiny Houstonia rosettes can take the super dry conditions and will survive.

Upslope is deeper soil that contains plants capable of sprinkling seeds down into the Breccia desert. Even that soil is just a small remnant of what once was here. The Breccia area is a superb place to watch the process of colonization of a lifeless wasteland by aggressive plants.

No comments:

Post a Comment