Tom's Blog

Friday, August 8, 2008

North American Prairie Conference field trip

This week Kathie and I went to Minnesota to attend the 21st North American Prairie Conference at Winona State University. This event, held every two years, brings together researchers and prairie enthusiasts from all over the Midwest (and a few from the south and the west coast) to share research results and make contacts.

A major event at every Prairie Conference is a series of all day field trips at sites in the area. Since Winona is on the Mississippi River, with great scenic bluffs on all sides, the trips were very good. Kathie and I went on the trip to Great River Bluffs State Park, a 2000 acre preserve high above the river which has many fine dry bluff prairies. The photo below shows part of the group at King's Bluff Prairie, one of the largest and most pristine bluff prairies in the Park. The prairie had been burned in spring 2008 and had responded very well. Other bluff prairies can be seen in the background and across the valley. From the Mississippi River one can look across at the Wisconsin side where many more bluff prairies have been restored.

The flora at King's Bluff Prairie was very diverse, and reminded us quite a bit of the prairie flora at Black Earth Rettenmund State Natural Area. However, the vegetation at King's Bluff was "lusher" than that at Black Earth, probably because the soil is deeper.

We heard quite a few good papers at the meetings. Highlights were several papers on control of Canada thistle, sumac, and reed canary grass. Also, there were several good papers on work underway on high quality prairies and savannas. To me, two of the most interesting were from regions outside the Midwest (Willamette Valley in Oregon and Rice Lake Savanna in Ontario).

The next North American Prairie Conference will be in 2010 at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids, IA under the sponsorship of the Tallgrass Prairie Center.


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