Saturday, June 18, 2016

State game land blues... and opportunities

Begin rant:

I have been doing research on state game lands for the past three years. I've run into land managers and biologists - they know why there I'm there. To study how management, particularly fire, and plants, particularly warm versus cool season grasses. 

The goal of our study is to inform land managers to best practices - how to maximize biodiversity. You would think there would be some communication between us and them and they would tell us their burning schedule and planting strategy so we could take advantage of these opportunities to do some really good science. Going from cool season grasses to warm season grasses from one year to the next is an excellent "natural" experiment. To be uninformed is to miss a great opportunity.

Case in point: SGL205 had a cool season grassland - ironically few grasses. This field was mostly dogbane (Apocynum sp.) and a few other wildflowers. Diversity of birds was really low with red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows being the only birds to use the fields exclusively. Indigo buntings and a few other species used the periphery. This year we returned and the entire field had been converted to warm season grasses. No blame here. Warm season grasslands are much more diverse than... well, here's the kicker - cool season grasslands that are dominated by switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). That is the standard pastureland grass. The warm season grassland on another site at SGL 205 was an avian wasteland late in the season. And that is because they use only big bluestem and it grew so thick that I don't think birds could use it. 

This is the site as of last week. Should I have known about this, I would have set up surveys but it's already late. Bummer.

End rant. 

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