Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

The Churchill Prairie was purchased by the Forest Preserve District of Du Page County, Illinois, in 1969 and dedicated as an Illinois State Nature Preserve in 1993. The site includes wet prairie and sedge meadow that grade into mesic prairie and oak savanna. The prairie was actively managed since its purchase through prescribed burning, removal of woody plants, and the reconstruction of 4 ha (10 acres) of former agricultural land. Several outside events, including the construction of I- 355, a nursery operation, and a drastic reduction in the drainage boundary, had negative effects on the vegetation and led to numerous management challenges. Beginning in 1985, a series of permanent transects with quadrats sampled at a set distance were established to monitor vegetative changes in the reconstructed and remnant sections of the prairie. Results from these studies indicate that the reconstructed portions of the prairie are slowly improving yet still threatened by woody plant invasion. The wet prairies and sedge meadows had been declining in quality, based on observation of the diminished acreage in the watershed and salt/sediment from the adjacent roadways. The prairie seems to be rebounding after extensive management that targeted woody plants and reed canary grass (RCG; Phalaris arundinacea L.) beginning in 2009. In particular, appearance of the eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea (Nutt.) Lindl.) in 2010 after a 25-yr absence, is evidence of the management success. The species is state endangered in Illinois and is listed as federally threatened by the U.S. government.

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