Restoring & Monitoring the Pilot Project

Restoring & Monitoring the Pilot Project

tree mortalityMany trees perished during Hurricane Ike and the drought of 2011. This was in part due to the existence of prairie soils that could not support the overgrown, forested system. The tree canopy loss during these severe weather events was around 50%, which created openings for invasive species and an aggressive understory to take over much of the area.

In order to restore the area to a more sustainable condition, we must mimic disturbances like fire and large grazers that historically kept savanna and prairie ecosystems healthy. This means that some trees must be removed and the invasive understory will be cleared to make way for a more diverse and robust array of native plants. More than 84% of trees 8″ in diameter and larger in the pilot will be kept. A number of dead, standing trees will be kept as well to provide habitat for wildlife.

A rigorous assessment of all the trees in the area was conducted to determine which trees should be kept. The criteria for selecting these trees included: species, age, size, health, spacing and location.

This is a picture of the Green Bayou Mitigation Bank, healthy representation of tree motts growing on higher elevation areas and grasses in the lower zones. The goal for the test plot is to look more like this more native landscape.

This is the Greens Bayou Mitigation Bank. You can see the trees growing on higher ground and grasses in the lower areas. This is the type of native landscape we hope to restore in the pilot area.

Another important factor in the tree assessment process was where the trees were located in terms of the topography of the landscape. The higher areas are sandier soils called “pimples” and are typically where the older post oak motts (groves of trees) can be found. The lower areas called “dimples” tend to have a higher clay content and better support a grassland system. The goal is to maximize biodiversity in the area while creating a healthy savanna landscape that will be able to sustain climatic changes.

Removing trees primarily in the low lying areas will allow for more light to reach the forest floor, therefore promoting a healthy grassland and wildflowers which will provide much needed habitat for native wildlife and will be vital to restoring this area to an open savanna.

The trees that will be removed will be re-purposed for use by the Houston Arboretum.

Monitoring the pilot area

The pilot area will be closely monitored by our conservation team and the invasive species understory will be prevented from re-sprouting.

A 1-acre testing area within the pilot will be used to plant various native prairie grasses and flowering plants to test for their suitability to the site. This test plot will also help us assess irrigation strategies and soil amendments, and it will inform future landscaping at both the Houston Arboretum and Memorial Park.

 

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