Prairie Restoration Plan Prairie Fork ca



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Prairie Restoration Plan

Prairie Fork CA
General Strategy:
Prairie Fork Conservation Area (PFCA) natural community restoration and reconstruction actions will be conducted with the following overriding guidelines:


  1. Control of exotic species must be accomplished before restoration planting efforts are undertaken.




  1. Seed sources from the Glaciated Plain Ecoregion will be the priority used in restoration efforts. Restoration should focus on species typically occurring in central Missouri prairies and savannas. Availability and price of seed will be taken into consideration, but seed originating from locations and site characteristics closest to those found at PFCA will receive highest priority.




  1. Local seed harvests should be used to supplement restoration plantings and increase restored diversity. Local seed harvests should focus on, but not be limited to, expensive, hard to purchase, and/or unique species.




  1. For the purposes of planning and logistics, PFCA will be divided into 4 “Restoration Units” (Figure 1). These zones will help direct and plan restoration efforts on PFCA for the next few years. These Units have been divided to create areas where both prairie and savanna restoration efforts can be pursued. Units were created to create comparable sized areas of similar management histories.




  1. Restoration efforts will take place in a systematic fashion. Seedbed preparation will be conducted throughout one of the 4 Restoration Units, using one of the below outlined techniques. Once exotic species have been eliminated and the seed bed has been prepared in the restoration sites, planting will be undertaken.




  1. Intensive management will be conducted within a given Restoration Unit to prepare seed beds (eliminate exotic species and prepare mineral soil sites) and conduct reconstruction plantings. The other, non-intensively managed Units will have the spread of exotic species contained by extensive management activities such as mowing and burning


Seed Bed Preparation:
Seedbed preparation will be done to minimize the probability of exotic species invasion and maximize mineral soil contact with planted seed. This will be accomplished by using three general techniques (Figure 2):


  1. Where feasible, sites that do not contain any remnant native vegetation will be cropped for 3-5 years prior to planting. The first few years of cropping should use tillage methods to stimulate seed bank germination, followed by broadcast non-selective herbicide application. This technique should reduce the seed bank competition when restoration plantings are done. Cropping later in the cycle should be no-till to control soil loss and promote soil structure development. In all instances, the most practical soil conservation procedures should be practiced. Crops such as “Round-up Ready Soybeans” will be used to accomplish the seedbed preparation goals. Edges of crop fields, waterways, and other areas where cropping activities are limited due to topography, erosion, or existing vegetation (woody sprouts, small plots of native grasses, etc.) will be treated with herbicides to eliminate exotic species and prepare seed beds.




  1. Areas that cannot feasibly be cropped or contain remnant native grasses (warm season grasses) will have exotic forbs and grasses eliminated using selective and non selective herbicides. Broadcast applications will be used to treat the entire area. Techniques utilizing burning, mowing, timing of herbicide application, etc. will be used to reduce damage to native grasses, and eliminate exotic grasses and forbs. Seedbed preparation will then be accomplished by using burning and selective herbicide treatments to prepare sites for restoration plantings.




  1. Areas that contain some remnant forb species will have exotic forbs eliminated using spot treatment of selective herbicides. Exotic grasses will be controlled using broadcast applications of selective herbicides. Techniques utilizing burning, mowing, timing of herbicide application, etc. will be used to increase visibility and susceptibility of exotic grasses and forbs and to reduce damage to native forbs. Seedbed preparation will be used to supplement and augment existing remnant species by both overseeding and plantings. Exotic species will be eliminated before restoration seeding and plantings are undertaken.




  • Cropfield edges, woodland-field interfaces, and other “edges” will be spot treated to reach areas that are not affected by broadcast applications. Yearly spot treatments efforts will take place within the previously defined broad scale Restoration Unit (Figure 1).




  • Between 40 and 120 acres of prepared seed bed (areas that have had exotic species controlled/eliminated and have maximized mineral soil – seed contact probability) will be developed each year within a defined Restoration Unit.



Establishment Strategies:
A major goal of the restoration process is to develop a stable seed source for prairie, savanna, and woodland reconstruction that is not dependent upon the purchase of all seed. A reliable, consistent, cost effective seed source is needed to begin, and complete, prairie restoration on the nearly 1,000 acres that is PFCA and MPF property. The reasoning behind this approach is twofold. First, currently most seed dealers do not specialize in central Missouri ecotype seed. There are no known combinations of seed dealers that can currently offer 100+ species mixes of central Missouri ecotype seed. The only significant central Missouri seed source is Tucker Prairie and it contains over 220 species of central Missouri Ecotype seed. Second, even if central Missouri ecotype seed is available, cost may be prohibitive. Cost could run well over $1,000 per acres to buy and plant the appropriate forb species thought to be necessary for successful prairie restoration. In fact some species, such as several sedge species and uncommon, non-showy forbs, may not even be available from most, if not all, seed dealers. Seed dealers, however, can be counted on to consistently offer volumes of some, relatively more common needed species.
We would like to follow the example provided by MDC’s former West-Central Region. In that region, MDC worked cooperatively with other groups and organizations to develop a seed harvest cooperative. Using part time employees and limited equipment this co-op has been able to harvest and create forb-rich seed mixes. Enough seed mix has been available to plant 150-200 acres each of the last to years. Moreover, these seed mixes have been shown to have over 100 native species to be present. This has all been done for a budgeted $27,000 annually ($10,000 of which goes to tractor rental.) This translates to a cost of around $60 - $120 per acre. Compare this cost to the purchase of seed which could easily exceed $1,000 per acre. (In 2003-2004, MPF purchased seed of 40-50 species to reconstruct 40 acres of prairie at a cost of $40,000.) We do not have the luxury of large seed sources in central Missouri. However, using the West-Central Region model we could develop several smaller local seed sources to collect hard-to-purchase and unique species
Restored forb rich prairies, savannas, and woodlands are desired on PFCA. Forb rich prairies, savannas, and woodlands are defined as communities with greater than 30 species of forbs. Actually greater than 100 species are preferred in the restored prairies and savannas on PFCA. Restoration efforts that meet this goal may be varied, but will include the following techniques (Figure 3):


  1. Establish forb rich plantings for several years before introducing native grasses.




  1. Establish forb rich plantings with limited non-aggressive warm season and cool season grasses (little bluestem, prairie dropseed, Festuca paradoxa, etc.)




  1. Use summer burning and/or selective herbicide treatments to reduce native warm season grass dominance and create opportunities to inter-seed native forbs into established grass stands.




    • Seed sources will be a mixture of local and Glaciated Plain Ecoregion seed. Species that are unique to central Missouri or are difficult to purchase will come from local seed sources and be supplemental to other Ecoregion seed. Relatively widespread, more common, and reasonably easy to purchase seed will come from non-local, Missouri seed sources and purchased from seed dealers.




    • Previously established Glaciated Plain Ecoregion ecotype plantings will be used, in addition to other local seed sources.




    • Hard to establish species may be introduced through species plugs.


Maintenance:
Maintenance of reconstructed prairie, savanna, and woodland sites must be conducted to sustain and improve their vegetation and wildlife communities. Specific maintenance activities will be evaluated by the area manager and will differ among prairie, savanna, woodland sites. However, some of the general maintenance guidelines will be:


  • Restored prairie, savanna, and woodland sites will be maintained with prescribed fire and possibly periodic mechanical treatments (haying, woody vegetation control, etc.) Maximization of vegetation structure and composition will guide application of these treatments.




  • Burn frequency at a given site will be every 2-5 years.




  • Exotic species will be monitored and spot treated in restored areas.




  • Mowing, haying, and selective herbicide treatments may all be used to maintain and enhance restored prairie, savanna, and woodland communities.


Monitoring:
Monitoring must play an important role in restoration efforts at PFCA. Monitoring will help evaluate effectiveness of both seed bed preparation and reconstruction planting activities.


  • Monitoring will be set up to evaluate the elimination of exotic species, specifically sericea lespedeza and fescue, from the restoration sites. Between 150 and 200 randomly placed points will be sampled each year within the intensively managed Restoration Unit. One 1-meter square quadrat will be placed at each randomly placed point to sample for the presence of sericea lespedeza and tall fescue. When the presence of sericea lespedeza and fescue is less than 5%, restoration plantings will be conducted.




  • Monitoring will be developed to evaluate the different establishment techniques. Monitoring activities should include, but not be limited to:




  1. Evaluation of forb only, grass-forb, and inter-seeding forbs into established grass stands;




  1. Evaluation of different seed bed preparation techniques and restoration success;




  1. Evaluation of success using local and non-local seed source in restoration plantings.




  • Monitoring activities should be tailored to evaluate and promote knowledge of prairie savanna, and woodland restoration techniques, methods, and biology. Area projects that promote understanding of natural community restoration will receive the highest priority.


Timeline:


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