“Advancing Like a Fire Through the Understory: A Regional Assessment of Oak Savanna Restoration Efficacy”
Monday, October 15, 2018
1758 10th St N, Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Michigan Natural Features Inventory
The oak savanna habitats of the Upper Midwestern United States, open-canopied forests characterized by an herbaceous groundlayer, are among the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet. Their demise is largely the result of modern land use practices, beginning with the suppression of traditional Native American management of the landscape with fire, and continuing with the expansion of agriculture and urbanization. As such, historical oak savannas have either been cleared for agriculture and urban development, or have converted to closed-canopied forests. Many plant and animal species associated with this historically widespread habitat-type are therefore rare and declining.
This presentation will focus on a project designed to assess the efficacy of ongoing oak savanna restoration efforts throughout the southern Great Lakes basin, a collaboration between Michigan State University and the USGS Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station. While progress has been made in understanding what constitutes effective restoration of degraded oak savanna - some combination of prescribed fire and thinning of shrubs and trees from the canopy and understory is clearly essential - most studies to date have been limited in geographic scope, spanning one site to a single landscape. As a consequence, we lack understanding of regional-scale variation in approaches to oak savanna restoration, a generalizable understanding of how this variation might affect restored structure in oak savannas, or how the impacts of restoration compare to influences of regional variation in soil conditions, light availability, land-use history, and landscape context.
Tyler Bassett has a deep love of the plants and plant communities of the Midwest, and in particular the prairie/savanna landscape of southwest Michigan. He has cultivated his skills as a botanist and ecologist over the past 20 years, informing conservation and management of natural and restored habitats through work with the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Michigan State University, and the ecological restoration firm, Native Connections.