Tom's Blog

Monday, May 26, 2014

Necedah oak savanna restoration

On Memorial Day weekend Kathie and I spent a day visiting the oak savanna restorations at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Over the past decades, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has done extensive work to bring back the oak savannas at this refuge. Among other wildlife, this work has successfully restored habitat for red-headed woodpeckers, a species of declining numbers.

We were especially interested in visiting the Necedah savannas because they are quite different in character than those at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Necedah is in the center of the vast Glacial Lake Wisconsin and is sandy and very flat. The habitat consists of oak barrens intermixed with extensive  oak, pine, and aspen forests, wetlands and open water, grasslands, and rare savannas. Our visit focused on the savannas.

The area that we visited contained primarily Hill's oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), with scattered areas of jack pine (Pinus banksiana). Extensive areas had been restored by selective cutting (Timber Stand Improvement), followed by frequent prescribed burns. Evidence of recent prescribed burns was found.

As the photo shows, the canopy is much more open than that at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Evidence of logging can be seen in the numerous stumps scattered through the site.

Red-headed woodpeckers were in evident everywhere in this area.
Restored Hill's oak savanna along 12th Road in Necedah Wildlife Refuge. 
Necedah Wildlife Refuge is also noted for supporting restoration of two other rare species: 1) Karner blue butterflies; 2) whooping cranes. An excellent visitor center (open six days a week) provides excellent background on all these ecological activities. There I found this pithy quote: “Where does the prairie end and the oak savanna begin? The short answer is: at the nearest oak tree.”

The information on oak savanna in this post is based on the 2004 Necedah Comprehensive Conservation Plan, available for download from this link.


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