SEATTLE — Restoring the prairies and oak woodlands that run through Puget Sound’s lowlands, western Oregon and British Columbia, is a complex and intensely local effort. Acre by acre, land stewards wrench out Scotch broom, reseed wildflowers, nurture butterflies, and work to understand the interplay of all the elements that make up this fragile land.
The Nature Conservancy has helped to develop a sophisticated collaborative working group, the Cascadia Prairie-Oak Partnership, to share conservation efforts throughout this region. Now, all that the partnership members have learned over 20 years and uncounted acres of restoration has been collected into one volume. This work was supported by the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management program, which provides financial support to DOD efforts to protect our natural and cultural heritage.
The spring issue of Northwest Science, the peer-reviewed journal of the Northwest Scientific Association, represents the most up-to-date information for the prairie-oak system in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
“This publication provides us with long-needed, up-to-date information that relates directly to our on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts. This volume is going to guide our work for years to come,” said David Wilderman, a Department of Natural Resources ecologist who manages restoration at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve.
The bottom line of all this research is that conservation efforts are showing considerable successes in many areas, but they require a good understanding of natural history, solid scientific studies, and perseverance with a long-term commitment.
For example, conservationists have a variety of tools at their disposal for beating back invasive species to allow the native species to thrive: burning, as practiced by Native Americans for generations; careful application of targeted herbicide; fall and spring mowing, and re-seeding with native seeds. But use of these techniques has been as fragmented as the prairies themselves. Land managers relied on anecdotal knowledge-sharing, or studies testing single treatment in one place.
But now, conservation practitioners have access to a five-year study across the entire geography testing multifaceted restoration techniques. They’ve learned that adding seed of native species – even ones that are already present on a site – is key in most restoration. Burning or applying herbicide isn’t sufficient, as there usually is not enough native seed available to jump in when weeds are controlled. Carefully selected, multiple treatments used in combination over several years are necessary. One or two treatments (a burn, or a couple of applications of herbicide) aren’t going to do it.
Dr. Peter Dunwiddie served as the editor for this volume. Dr. Dunwiddie has worked in prairie conservation since 1983, and has published widely in scientific literature, particularly in the areas of rare plants and natural area management. He is known for working collaboratively with academic scientists and land managers.
Jeffrey Duda, a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, is the editor of Northwest Science.
Read it online at http://www.bioone.org/toc/nwsc/85/2.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.