Tom's Blog

Friday, December 12, 2014

Effect of savanna restoration on wildlife

We have known intuitively almost since we started our savanna restoration work that we were benefiting wildlife, especially songbirds. Now there is some quantitative research that confirms this.

The work was done by wildlife biologists Frank Thompson and Sybill Amelon and their students at the University of Missouri-Columbia and summarized in the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station website.

The approach used was to contrast the use by birds and bats of actively restored savannas with unrestored sites that were now closed canopy forests. The work was done in sites in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The results showed that blue-winged warbler, Eastern towhee, Eastern wood pewee, field sparrow, prairie warbler, and summer tanager were more abundant in the restored sites, whereas Acadian flycatcher and worm-eating warbler were more abundant in the non-managed sites. The conclusion was: "Savannas and woodlands provide habitat for a diverse mix of grassland-shrub and canopy nesting birds that are of high conservation concern."

Parallel work was done on bats in the Missouri Ozarks by Clarissa Starbuck, a student of Thompson. See concluded that: "Habitat conditions created by savanna and woodland restoration and management resulted in greater occupancy of the big brown bat, eastern red bat, evening bat, and tri-colored bat than was observed in mature, non-managed forest. The northern long-eared bat, however, had greater occupancy in highly forested landscapes and closed canopy forest or woodlands with open understories."

Our work at Pleasant Valley Conservancy has shown that plant species diversity is also higher in the savanna than in either the prairie or woodland habitats. A scan through our detailed species list will confirm thisThe complete list of savanna species can be found in this link.

Here is a quote from our oak savanna web site: "Because the open canopy means that light can get to the forest floor, the oak savanna has a wide diversity of grasses and other flowering plants. Because the habitat is so variable, there is more diversity in savanna than there is in prairie. In 2004, 184 species of flowering plants were identified in the oak savanna areas of Pleasant Valley Conservancy. The list to the right, an aggregate of years 2002 to 2007, has 275 species. However, not all species were present in all savanna areas."

With this great vegetation diversity, it seems reasonable that wildlife of all kinds of species would benefit from a restored savanna.


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