The Interagency Ecological Restoration Quality Committee (IERQC) hosts a monthly webinar series in an effort to bring restoration practitioners from across the country together to present and discuss the innovations aimed at improving the quality of ecological restoration data. Their November/December, 2020 webinar focuses on oak savanna restoration.
Interagency Ecological Restoration Quality Committee Webinar
A regional scale assessment of oak savanna restoration: The impacts of prescribed fire and thinning on understory diversity and composition in the southern Great Lakes Basin
Speaker: Tyler Bassett, PhD, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Michigan State University Extension
Thursday, December 03, 2020, 8:00 – 9:00 AM, PST
Free!Oak savannas are a globally-threatened biome and one of the most endangered ecosystems in the Midwestern United States and Canada. Despite progress in understanding what constitutes effective restoration of degraded oak savanna, 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-scale environmental gradients, such as soil conditions, land-use history, and landscape context. Desirable outcomes of savanna restoration include changes to understory plant communities such as increased diversity; and changes to ecosystem structure such as reductions in the cover and depth of leaf litter concomitant with increases in the cover of herbaceous understory vegetation, and light availability associated with increased canopy openness.
This presentation discusses the results of an assessment of oak savanna restoration undertaken in collaboration with researchers from USGS, Michigan State University, and the Morton Arboretum. We assessed how differences in management history (burn-only, thin-only, thin-and-burn, unmanaged controls) influence understory plant communities (diversity, composition) in 100 plots across the southern and western Great Lakes Basin, especially as mediated through effects on ecosystem structure (canopy openness, tree basal area, understory vegetation, and litter cover and depth). Overall, we found that burn-only and thin-and-burn management generally produced desirable outcomes, relative to unmanaged controls. Plant species richness was higher under these management scenarios, a response that is likely mediated through treatment effects on light availability and the balance between leaf litter and herbaceous vegetation. There were strong biogeographical influences on understory composition, but when controlling for biogeography, composition varied along both edaphic and management gradients. Interestingly, while we found differences between the two management approaches incorporating burning, relative to unmanaged controls, we detected no differences between effects of individual management treatments. This does not necessarily suggest that mechanical thinning is not an important restoration tool, rather it underscores the necessity of using prescribed fire to manage oak savannas.
About the Presenter
Dr. Tyler Bassett is a Botanist and Plant Ecologist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Michigan State University Extension. He studies the ecology of natural communities and the rare plant species they support. Through a growing understanding of how they function, where they occur, why they occur there, and why they are important, his work informs the conservation and restoration of key elements of biodiversity in Michigan and beyond. He advances these goals in four primary ways: 1) by documenting and monitoring rare plant species populations through focused surveys and coordinating with partners that contribute data; 2) by utilizing data collected by MNFI scientists and from the published literature to better understand the ecology of and predict the distribution of rare species; 3) by mapping plant community composition and structure onto environmental variation in natural communities, to aid in the classification and management of those communities, and 4) through collaborations with a diversity of public and private researchers and land managers that help to understand and enact conservation efforts. His career as a botanist, ecologist, restoration practitioner, and land manager spans 20 years. With MNFI since 2018, he carries forward a broad knowledge of ecology and restoration, and in particular a passion for understanding and restoring the fragmented prairie-savanna landscapes of the upper Midwest. He holds a B.S. in Biology from Western Michigan University, and a PhD in Plant Biology, and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from Michigan State University.
For more information or to register, please visit IERQC's Webinar page, or register directly at their GoToWebinar page.