Posted by: tysonrc | May 11, 2010

The Big Glade Project!!!

Researchers at Tyson Research Center are very happy to announce a project recently funded from the National Science Foundation that will allow us to restore nearly 25 acres of glades. We will be restoring glades on Tyson as well as on neighboring lands at Claverach organic farm and winery and West Tyson County Park. 

southwest facing hillsides invaded heavily by cedar

 Over the past 50 years or so, glades throughout the Ozarks have become very overgrown with eastern red cedar due to fire suppression, and we have many acres of these degraded glades right here in our neck of the woods—just look at a winter view of the landscape around here using Google Earth, and you’re sure to see large patches of ‘evergreens’ (cedars) clustered together on usually south-southwest facing slopes.  Ever see a cactus in the middle of a forest?  You can in these degraded glade areas. 

Glades are a unique rocky-outcrop ecosystem filled with many species of endemic plants and animals, like prickly pear cactus, eastern missouri tarantula, and scorpions,  that can tolerate hot and dry conditions with little soil (our own little piece of the desert southwest, right here in Missouri).  As proverbial ‘islands’ in a sea of Oak-Hickory woodland, glades also provide a great venue for testing ecological theory in addition to being important harbingers of biodiversity.  The project funded by NSF (PIs J. Chase, T. Knight, and T. Dickson), is allowing us to create 24 experimental glades that vary in their size as well as in their shape, and we will use them to test questions at the interface of biodiversity, conservation, and restoration science. 

Cedar trees worst enemy!

 It is also our hope that this project will attract researchers with interests in a variety of related (and unrelated) questions, from genes to ecosystems, and from lichens to plants to lizards and grasshoppers.  If you’re interested in using these glades for research, please contact one of the PIs…there’s more than enough science to go around for all! 

For those of you interested in the abstract of the NSF grant, read below:

Mechanisms of Species-Area Relationships in Ozark Glades

The observation that larger areas typically support more species is the basis for the species-area relationship, one of the oldest and best known relationships in ecology. Although this relationship holds true across a wide range of areas, and for many groups of species, it often predicts that small habitats should have more species than are actually present. The lower diversity found in small habitats may be a consequence of there being fewer rare species in those habitats than would be expected based on relatively simple species area relationships. A long-term, large-scale experiment will be established to test mechanisms underlying an increased extinction risk of rare species in smaller habitats in experimentally restored Ozark Glade communities. Plant communities in these rocky-outcrop ecosystems will be monitored following experimental restoration, and the demography of several rare species will be followed closely. Additional experiments will test the importance of biotic interactions, such as predation and mutualism, and habitat geometry to the persistence of rare species.

a freshly cleared, medium sized, round glade

Results from this study will have important implications for understanding, and trying to mitigate, biodiversity loss from small habitats, especially loss of rare species. This study will focus on a unique ecosystem type with many endemic species, and will engage practicing restoration ecologists as well as the general public on nearby public lands. Many undergraduate students and local high school interns will participate in the research as part of an informal science education program. Further, the long-term and large-scale nature of this experiment will create scientific infrastructure that will support research on related topics by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers from other institutions.

We will be posting frequent updates involving this project as well as more pictures, so check back often!

–Dr. Jon Chase, Travis Mohrman

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Responses

  1. Don’t forget to mention the impacts of grazing on glades. It was a double whammy in the thirties–stop fire and then graze the dickens out of the land. If the soil disturbance from the machinery and historic grazing doesn’t result in a biodiverse glade, but one full of muhly grass and few forbs, keep trying with frequent fire. I’ve seen really crummy glades recover as best as they can with successive fires if the fuel load allows.


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