Friends of UW Arboretum

  • Before shrub mowing, Mar. 2014
  • After clearing, May 2014
  • Volunteers cutting brush, summer 2014

Statement of need: This project addressed the degradation of Raymond Road Prairie by woody brush encroachment.

Project Goals: This project was the second phase of an overall project to clear woody invasive brush from Raymond Road Prairie. The objective of the project was to clear invasive and exotic shrubs from the northwest corner of the prairie (area not addressed under a previous Environmental Council grant). The overall goal is to increase native prairie plant diversity and increase the effectiveness of prescribed burns. This relates to the Environmental Council’s mission of protecting natural areas in Dane County. In addition, since Raymond Road Prairie is managed by the UW Arboretum as public land, we have the responsibility to educate the public on the benefits of preserving and restoring natural areas for enjoyment by future generations.

Work Accomplished: Contractors were retained to remove invasive tree and shrub species such as aspen, box elder, buckthorn, honeysuckle, dogwood and sumac from approximately northwest corner of the prairie. A forestry mower was used in March 2014 under frozen conditions to minimize soil disturbance. Follow-up herbicide treatment of the cut stumps and/or re-sprouts was accomplished by Arboretum staff. Additional weed management including both herbaceous and woody species was conducted by Arboretum staff and volunteer crews. Staff and volunteers collected seed from the prairie to be sown in areas of bare soil or other disturbed areas.

Outcomes and Impacts: The major outcome of this project was the removal of invasive trees and shrubs that have plagued the prairie for years. Removal of the woody component will allow Arboretum staff to more effectively burn the prairie which will lead to an increase in the abundance of native grasses and wildflowers. Transects and quadrats were used to measure the vegetation before and after shrub and tree removal. As expected it is too early to detect changes in native herbaceous species abundance or cover, however anecdotally there seemed to be an increase in the abundance of native grasses. The biggest change observed was the reduction of canopy coverage by woody species. We expect that as fire is returned to the prairie and woody species management is continued that we will see a significant increase in native prairie species richness. The public benefits from this project through increased volunteer opportunities and enjoyment of visiting a rare remnant prairie. In addition, through active participation volunteers come away with an increased knowledge of the importance of natural area conservation and ecological restoration. The Arboretum benefits by being able to fulfill our mission of Conserving and Restoring Arboretum Lands, Advancing Restoration Ecology and Fostering the Land Ethic.

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