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Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Better Understanding of Biodiversity

What do we know about the Berry Prairie? We know it is unique, we know that it is beautiful and we know that there are over 60 native plant species that now call it home. But it is not so much what we know about the Berry Prairie that makes it the unique and beautiful landscape that it is, however, what we do not know. 

For example: We do not know how the substrate we planted in will evolve. We do not know how the plants (all 60+ species) will survive or which species will recede or begin to dominate the landscape. We do not know what kind of animals (vertebrate and invertebrates) will inhabit this new, native-urban environment…. We don’t know…. But we will!

As grad student in Botany/Berry Center, I have spent the last couple of weeks accumulating the base line data that will spring board us toward our understanding of just how unique and just how successful this project will be.  On hands and knees, through rain and shine, through wind and cold I have gracefully (and not so gracefully) crawled my way through the Prairie getting to ‘know’ it up close and personal. 

Through stratified random sampling, a common approach to vegetation ecology, I have surveyed over 1400 individual plants and over 30% of the total area of the Prairie to assess above ground biomass and percent cover in order to establish a foundation of data that will be used in correlation with substrate samples, weather and precipitation data and assessment of animal diversity to help define what we will come know about the Berry Prairie.

Although it is getting late in the year I am excited to report that during sampling I saw a number of amazing flowering plants Campanula, Clematis, Erigeron spp. A vast array of grasses gone to seed Poa, Bouteloua and Sporobolus spp. and a number of invertebrates from true bugs (Hemiptera) and Lady Bugs (Coccinellidae) to bees (Hymenoptera) and bee flies (Bombyliidae) and a number of arachnids. Already, in these short months since planting, we are seeing success in survivability and biodiversity on our Berry Prairie and I as well as we look forward to what the Spring brings to our unique prairie landscape.

Written by Kyle Bolenbaugh, Botany/Berry Center graduate student

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