Restoring Ecological Integrity
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is home to a wide variety of natural communities, including re-constructed prairies, successional forests, mature oak/hickory and beech/maple forests, hardwood and conifer swamps, marshes and prairie fens, Those communities support several species listed on state or federal “endangered,” “threatened” or “special concern” lists.
Restoring ecological integrity and providing guidance on land management are the goals of the Institute’s stewardship efforts. This restoration and education involves two major components: integrating natural processes such as fire to promote biodiversity and limiting the population of invasive species through early detection and rapid response.
Prairie and Savanna Conservation
The state of Michigan has only a few small remnants of its original grasslands and savannas, and many associated wildlife species are in decline as a result.The Institute has converted over 100 acres of fallow farm field into native tall and short grass prairie habitat since purchasing the property in 1998 in hopes of preserving pollinator and grass..
The process of converting pre-existing agricultural fields into prairie ecosystem is a multi-year process. The stewardship department is committed to using species and seed genotypes natie to the Great Lakes region. Seeds are broadcast on the surface or drilled into the ground. Over several years of development, the prairie grasses and wildflowers will begin to visibly dominate the area. Over time and with the integration of natural disturbances, such as fire, plants will begin to establish and thrive in their preferred microhabitats.
The stewardship department manages prairies and savannas with prescribed fires intentionally ignited under a strict set of weather and site conditions. These prescribed fires reintroduce fire, an important ecosystem maintenance process and natural disturbance, to the landscape. Prior to widespread European settlement in West Michigan, fires ignited by Native Americans or by lightning strike served as an effective method for managing prairie, savanna and oak woodlands.The fire maintained the openings and set back encroaching shrubs and trees, allowing for increased light penetration, stimulating native plants, reducing competition from invasive plants and fertilizing the soil with ash. Without fires, Michigan’s prairies, savannas, and other fire-dependent ecosystems are quickly degradting into dense shrublands. Prescribed fire is helping to conserve them. Learn more about prescribed fires here.
The Institute’s oak savanna and oak woodland communities habitats continue to undergo management supported by grants provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Wildlife Habitat Grant Program the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Stewardship Department staff and Steeby Land Management Fellows work on monitoring, invasive species control, and mid-story thinning in management units to open mid-story canopy, increasing plant diversity within the understory and promoting oak regeneration. In addition to thes restoration activities, invasive species control and prairie mowing management has been ongoing at the recently established Little Grand Canyon oak savanna.