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Two Grants Fund Habitat Restoration at Warren Prairie

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, May 29, 2020

From January through May of this year, Warren Prairie Natural Area (NA) was abuzz with restoration activity. Specialized hand work crews removed sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) and other site-inappropriate hardwoods to restore the open pine-oak woodland habitat original to Warren Prairie NA. Sweetgum trees are targets because they moved into this ecosystem over the decades of fire suppression, produce a prolific amount of seeds, and can quickly overtake slower growing shortleaf pine trees (Pinus echinata) and the biodiversity in general that historically occurred at this site.

The work was funded in part by two grants: the Arkansas State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) State Super Fund grant and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s (AGFC) Northern Bobwhite (NOBO) Habitat Restoration Initiative grant. The NWTF Super Fund grant provided $7,490, matched by the ANHC. The NOBO grant provided $21,325 and was matched by the ANHC with in-kind contributions from the AGFC, NWTF, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Warren Prairie NA is approximately 5,590 acres of high-quality saline barrens, post oak flatwoods, mound woodlands, and native loblolly-shortleaf pine forest. The Pine-Hardwood Flatwoods system was identified by the ANHC and TNC as the most endangered forest system in the state. Other significant plant communities at the site include wet hardwood flatwoods with Dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), often a common understory species, and bottomland hardwood forests with occasional Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) sloughs. In addition, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations of varying ages from former industrial timberlands are being restored towards desired conditions. The most recent work, completed with funds from the aforementioned grants, restored 273 acres, creating additional high-quality habitat and revitalizing the large landscape that benefits northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), at least 13 other species of greatest conservation need, and 19 plant species of federal, regional, or state conservation concern.

These habitat restoration efforts are built upon a long running conservation-oriented relationship between the ANHC, AGFC, NWTF, and TNC. This, along with a planned prescribed burn for the growing season, is helping to restore the open pine-oak woodland habitat. By conducting these activities, the work invigorates a rich herbaceous layer, resulting in increased populations of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers (Dryobates borealis, RCW), northern bobwhite (C. virginianus), Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana), and other open pine woodland species of concern.

Photos:

Top - Habitat at Warren Prairie Natural Area.

Middle - Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana).

Bottom - Contractors, specialized in targeting certain species, use hand crews to complete herbicide treatments at Warren Prairie Natural Area. These contractors work in areas that cannot be treated using large equipment or aerial applications. Using hand crews also limits the amount of herbicide applied to the land and helps to ensure only target species are treated and removed.

 



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