Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) is a 2,573-ha (6,800-acre) Department of Energy site located in Batavia, Illinois, USA. Tucked among the particle accelerators are nearly 1,619 ha (4,000 ac) of natural areas including remnant and restored grasslands, woodlands, and wetlands. Dr. Robert F. Betz began his large-scale prairie restoration project on the Fermilab site in 1975. During the course of that work, he defined 4 successional stages of prairie restoration and listed species occurring in each of the stages. We present results after 40 y of successional prairie restoration and summarize current ecological land management efforts at Fermilab. Ninety-five percent of the 110 species making up his 4 stages of successional restoration established in at least 1 of the 25 Fermilab prairie plantings. Three-fourths of species in Stage 1 were observed in 80% of the plantings and 54% of Stage 2 species were found in at least half of the plantings. Many Stage 3 and almost all Stage 4 species did not frequently establish in the plantings, but this may be an artifact of seed availability. Species richness and floristic quality index (FQI) increased over time in most plantings as seeded and spontaneous species established. As of 2015, 268 native plant species were recorded in the 25 prairie plantings combined. Current ecological land management includes continuing to enrich all 25 prairie plantings by targeted overseeding. Fermilab staff are attempting to create spatial and structural heterogeneity in plantings dominated by big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) by experimenting with 2 hemiparasitic plants (wood betony [Pedicularis canadensis] and false toadflax [Comandra umbellata]) known to parasitize A. gerardii and thought to reduce its competitiveness. Fermilab staff have vastly improved invasive species control efforts and collection and spreading of native seeds in the prairie plantings thanks in part to the use of geographic information system technology. Volunteers help in the prairies as well as perform stewardship duties in remnant woodlands and oak savannas on site. Public outreach and partnerships remain important aspects of the Fermilab prairie project. Wildlife monitoring and ecological research continue to provide information guiding adaptive land management at Fermilab.

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