Tom's Blog

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Detailed summary of the wetlands at Pleasant Valley Conservancy

Restoration work on the Pleasant Valley Conservancy wetland has been underway for over 15 years. This work has been carried out by Craig Annen and his company, Integrated Restorations (IR).

Recently, as part of a survey for hybrid cattails, Craig has prepared a detailed summary of the wetland, including an extensive species list which includes a Floristic Quality Index (FQI).

Craig's paper has now been posted on the PVC website and is available for download.

According to the report, the 35-acre complex is a mosaic of seven unique wetland types: riparian floodplain, emergent aquatic, open water, shrub-carr, peaty sedge meadow, wet prairie, and calcareous fen/spring.

View of the PVC wetland from the bench at the Far Overlook. Although there is a substantial stream running through the wetland, most of the water is from springs and seeps.

Early Autumn view of the wetland, showing the location of the boardwalk.

The wetland complex supports 163 indigenous species of native plants, all listed in the report. The Floristic Quality Index (FQI) has a value of 62.2, indicative of a remnant natural area of remarkable quality. Thirty-eight species have a coefficient of conservatism (C-value) greater than or equal to 7, and 16 species have a C value greater than or equal to 8. These values are indicative of remnants of high-quality and with the least amount disturbance. Thus PVC has been justified in placing high priority on its wetland restoration work.

One plant species, sweet Indian plantain (Hasteola suaveolens), is a species of Special Concern in Wisconsin.

A gallery of flower photos and further information on the wetland can be found on the wetlands page on the PVC website.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fire Management in Midwest Oak Savannas

We have been burning oak savannas and oak woodlands at Pleasant Valley Conservancy for 20 years. In the early years we made lots of mistakes, as there were no sources of good information on the use of fire. (The Internet was still in its early stages.) As the years have gone by, our mistakes have been less and the sizes of our burns have been bigger.

See past posts of Tom's Blog for summaries of our annual spring and fall burns. (To access posts of earlier years' burns, do a Search for "Fire" and "Savanna" in the search box.)

In 2015 I was asked to give a presentation on "Fire management in oak savannas" at the annual meeting of the Prairie Enthusiasts, which prompted me to assemble photos and data for a Power Point presentation. I finally found time this past winter/early spring to convert that presentation into a PDF, which is provided in this link.

Here is a brief precis from the introduction to the tutorial:

"Oak savannas are fire dependent communities. Fire management in oak savannas differs from that of prairies or oak woodlands. This document provides details on how to conduct an oak savanna burn.

Fire is especially important in oak savanna restoration. An oak savanna restoration project should not be initiated if fire is not an option. Ideally, fire should be used annually for at least 10 years. After 10 years, fire can continue to be used annually, but should be used at least two out of every three years indefinitely."

Early stage in an oak savanna burn. October 2002
This was the first time this savanna had been burned,
and to get good burn coverage the burn was run as a headfire.

The second photo shows the first burn we did in the ridge-top savanna (Unit 12B/11B). At that time, although there was good fuel (oak leaves), the fire did not carry well because of all the downed timber and coarse woody debris. Here Kathie is doing extensive interior lighting (stripping), literally "forcing" the savanna to burn. As the years went by, the savannas burned more readily and did not need so much work to burn.

The tutorial goes into details on the savanna burn process.