I haven’t thought about poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) in a very long time. When a friend sent two photos of it for ID confirmation last week, it became a highlight of my week. As we discussed this plant, the initial response was to get rid of it. Yet it’s native and wildlife depend on native plants. How many depend on this “unpopular” plant? I had to know. [Read more…] about Poison Ivy – Live and Let Live
I’ve been thinking a lot about refugia. Maybe because it’s spring and the burn season is upon us. Each year we tour our land and review our management strategy. Revisions are generally made because we can’t outguess nature. As I work on these management plans, I realize I’m hearing fewer discussions today about refugia than 15 years ago.
Our native ecosystems are more than plants. In fact, plants make up a very small percentage of the biota found in prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands. Of the biota, if we solely look at insects, we have names for about 20% but we do not know the biology for all those 20%! This lack of knowledge makes it imperative that we ensure a safe place (aka refugia) remains when planning all management activities.
Dictionary.com defines refugia as “an area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or a community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas.” These surrounding areas of refugia are how insects repopulate the managed area.
When refugia is considered, it’s normally been in the context of prescribed fire but we include it in other management activities, such as herbicide applications and mowing.
Planning refugia when mowing and herbiciding is easier, but planning for refugia when burning is more difficult. At Driftless Prairies, we divide our ecosystems by soil moisture and shade type in order to maintain similar refugia. We have full sun prairies, partial shade in the oak savanna, and a shady woodland area. Within these there are soil moisture levels that grade from dry to wet mesic. We work in sections so no more than half of an ecosystem is affected by the disturbance. When managing our plantings, we divide management areas within that particular planting. Several areas have similar sun and soil moisture levels as other areas but they are different ages and in some cases supports different plants. We feel it’s prudent to not assume these different areas support the same insects.
We live in the Anthropocene (a geologic time when humans are the principal force on climate and the environment) and are experiencing wildlife extinctions at a quickened pace. We can only count extinctions for those we know about, yet what about those unnamed, unidentified species. We don’t know what we don’t know.
We provide this native habitat for the wildlife, therefore we make land management decisions to protect them. Balancing management activities and refugia takes time and planning but we want both the habitat and the wildlife healthy and reproductive.
These photos from Winona County, MN reflect the hard work of caring for our wildlife and ensuring there is a safe place for them to survive and repopulate the area. This burn break was painstakingly put in with a brushcutter and a backpack blower. Gabe Erickson took these drone photos.
Author: Dr. Hope Q. Liu (Biology)
Aquatic insects, also called benthic macroinvertebrates, are ideal bioindicators of water quality. What the heck is a benthic macroinvertebrate? Benthic means “bottom of a body of water” and macroinvertebrate means you can see the insect with your eye and insect has no backbone. Benthic macroinvertebrates are used as bioindicators of water quality because they are sensitive to environmental changes and its presence or lack thereof determines clean water or polluted water. [Read more…] about Aquatic Insects as Indicators of Water Quality
The Blanchardville Public Library’s summer theme is “Library’s Rock” which makes the art exhibit depicting the hydrologic cycle perfect. Ten community artists came together (confluence) to create a beautiful and educational exhibit illustrating elements of the hydrologic cycle — our “water ways.” [Read more…] about Confluence, our Water Ways in art
Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) treatment is happening in Lafayette County, beginning mid-May through August. The day before receiving this announcement, I discovered a rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) on our property, a federally endangered insect. While this was a new find, our land supports a number of classified insects (endangered, threatened, and special concern, also referred to as T&E), along with herptiles and birds. Needless to say, I was concerned and had to nail down the details. [Read more…] about Gypsy Moth Treatment
By Marci Hess and MJ Hatfield
BugGuide. net is a website worth exploring on the fly! Many of us are interested in the biota living in the ecosystems we work hard to save and protect; learning about them enhances our work and enriches our lives. While I did not set out to work with insects, I suppose it’s serendipitous that during the course of my ecosystem restoration work, insects began to intrigue me. My mom tells me I’ve always liked them –eating them instead of dirt! Once I had cataloged the mammals, birds, and herptiles on our land the next logical step was insects. This curiosity turned into a passion. [Read more…] about BugGuide.net
Restoring and managing habitat for amphibians and reptiles requires knowledge beyond plants. In bringing the health back to our lands we are regenerating habitat and reestablishing ecosystems. This is not a linear process and involves more than just plants. It involves using a variety of management techniques in differing seasons and tailored to various species. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all plan. When you read these guidelines by Rebecca Christoffel, it becomes clear the special needs of our herptiles. [Read more…] about Restoring and Managing Habitat with Amphibians and Reptiles
In 2017, our local librarian wanted some artwork for the library. Heidi and I put our heads together and with her fabulous artistic talent, this exhibit was born!! The following text is from the booklet at the library for self-guided tours. I have added, where the whole moth isn’t obvious in the art, the photos that were the inspiration. We are excited to have 2 other libraries interested in this exhibit. Who knew this would turn into a travelling exhibit. Thank you, Heidi, for coordinating this. [Read more…] about LepidopterART
This year the Lafayette County Commissioners voted to subsidize well water testing for the county. They decided to begin with 2 townships at a time. The first of these were Wiota and Seymour. Testing was conducted by UW-Stevens Point Extension and in late August, Kevin Masarik with the Center for Watershed Science and Education presented the findings to a group of interested citizens. [Read more…] about Lafayette County Well Testing Results
Lafayette County has some great water features. Not only for the county, but some rank excellent in relation to the whole United States!! This according to Bradd Sims, the Lafayette County Fishery Biologist for the Wisconsin DNR, who presented the following information to the Lafayette County Conservation Committee. [Read more…] about Lafayette County Rivers, Streams, and Watersheds