|Brazilian Giant Cockroach, Blaberus giganteus|
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
|Silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium|
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Friday, June 13, 2014
|Progression of recovery over four months after a prescribed burn.|
Like the trampling of bison, fires helped keep trees out of the prairies. Huge fires once routinely swept across the prairie, burning up to 15 m (50 ft) high and travelling at a rate of 80 kph (50 mph). They were fast and efficient, continuing to burn until reaching a natural barrier such as a river. The fires were swift and the grasses grew back fast. They prevented the formation of thickets were little grass remains. Native grasses often rely on fires to stimulate growth. Removal of fires allowed trees to invade which killed grasses. Even native trees, such as eastern red cedar, are considered invasive as their abundance is not natural. Where once fire kept them in check, a lack of fire allows them to spread far and wide.
Prescribed burns are just one example of prairie restoration that attempts to recreate pressures of the past. These controlled fires kill off small trees and unwanted plants much like the fires that once swept through the prairies. Native plants are adapted to fires withdeep roots and growth tissue low within the stem. Unlike non-natives, the natives grow back far quicker and are able to reclaim the soil; however, burning is a technique that is successful only if continually used. A woody plant will eventually recover, and if another fire is not set, can take over once again.
Prairie restoration involves a number of other steps and varies for each location. Many places must be seeded as few to no native plants may remain. As simple as it sounds, even seeding is difficult due to specifics in germination and growth which rely on proper conditions and timing. The characteristic deep roots of native plants often prevent success by simple seeding and require tubing to encourage and allow the roots to grow. When managed properly, cattle are successful at simulating grazing bison. They are moved around to allow grasses to grow back rather than be overgrazed, their hooves break up dead matter and help water penetrate the soil, and their manure increases the fertility in the soil. In places where prescribed burns are not doable, mowing can help remove plants and shrubs that are not native, and it is also successful at stimulating native grass growth.
The restoration of the Blackland Prairies is an issue that would benefit many besides the wildlife and is slowly gaining traction. Ranchers benefit by not only provided an abundant and nutritious food source, but the increased foraging by cattle will help prevent tree growth that would otherwise limit them. The dense roots the once made plowing difficult were what kept the soil intact. Not only would it prevent soil erosion which destroys fertility and fills reservoirs with mud, but it would also allow the soil absorb more of the water. While restoration is difficult, it is worth it in the end.
Back in February, a small patch of Blackland Prairie was burned for restoration purposes. It has been burned before and was due for another. There are always obstacles to overcome for a burn: proximity to housing, weather conditions, and availability of the burning crew. Although I hope I don’t have to say it, I will: Do not attempt a prescribed burn unless you are a professional. A professional is someone who is trained in the matter, has a crew to help, and a fire truck as back up. While I’ve helped with burns in the past, this was a burn where I was only an audience.
|Prescribed burn of a patch of Blackland Prairie in February.|
|Prescribed burning of a patch of Blackland Prairie|
|Patch of prairie unable to be burned due to regulator issues.|
|Burned prairie same day as the picture above two months after burning.|
After the burn, I decided to try to chronicle the revival of the patch of land. About once or twice a week, I went there to take a picture (first one posted). It certainly isn't perfect as I used the knot of a tree to position my camera, but it captures the recovery well enough. In retrospect, I should have chronicled the adjacent unburned patch of land for a similar timelapse. Still, I took enough pictures of it along the way for comparison. In less than four months, there is a noticeable difference between what was burned and what was not. Even a year later, it will still be obvious as the songbirds flock to the land that was scorched earlier. Wildfires get a bad name for the “scar” they leave on the land; however, land recovers as it is simply part of nature. You can read the post in whole and see additional pictures on Google+ at this link or read the first post on the blog here.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
|A patch of Blackland Prairie about three months later.|
|A patch of unburned Blackland Prairie next to the burned patch.|
|Slightly less than a month after the patch of prairie was burned.|
This week is simple two related posts that were taken and adapted from my Sunday post on Google+. The follow the introduction of the Blackland Prairie as well as a personally chronicling of a patch that was burned and comparing it to an unburned patch over the course of a few months. You can read it here in full as well as see additional pictures not on the blog. The next post on Thursday (available to read here) will focus on fires and prairie restoration. It will also include a timelapse photo of the burned patch to show the progression of recovery.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
|Texas Tortoise ♂, Gopherus berlandieri|
|Gular scute (extension) on a male Texas tortoise.|
The above Texas tortoise resides at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary after legal rescue and transfer by Texas Parks and Wildlife. He was illegally removed from his home far south and dumped out of range far north. As he is now non-releasable, he is on display under the education display permit EDU-0609-114 from Texas Parks and Wildlife. It is illegal to hold any native wildlife in the state of Texas (or native bird in the United States) without a proper permit.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
|Pincushion flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea|