Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fire and the Restoration of Homestead NM Grass Prairies

Before Americans of European descent settled on the Great Plains fire would have periodically occurred in the woodlands area that is now part of Homestead National Monument (NM) of America. The woodlands of the Monument would have had a much different composition and look than they do today as the “tall grass prairies once covered 140 million acres of North America. [but] Farming, urbanization, and invasive plant species have reduced this ecosystem to 1% of its original range” (NPS Fire and Aviation Program).

Management of Homestead NM would, if possible, like to return the woodlands to their pre-settlement composition and look. An example of this fire management can bee seen at:

Homestead National Monument of America Presentation - FLASH
An interactive story of maintaining the tall grass prairie in Nebraska through prescribed fire.

To help obtain this goal the Homestead National Monument of America is conducting a hydrology project for Cub Creek and the woodlands surrounding Cub Creek with the aide and assistance of the Great Lakes Northern Forest CESU and Michigan Technological University of Houghton, Michigan. The primary focus of the project is to determine where the trees in the woodlands acquire their water. This will be completed by comparing the different oxygen isotopes found in the rainwater, ground water, soil moisture, and creek water to what is in the cambium of bur oak trees. Three sites in the woodland will be monitored. One of the ultimate goals is to determine the feasibility of re-introducing fire into the woodlands; therefore this project is very important in determining the feasibility of the re-introduction of fire.

A Homestead NM partner in this venture is the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) National Network. CESU is a network of collaborative units established to provide research, technical assistance, and education to resource and environmental managers responsible for federal land management, environmental, and research agencies and their potential partners

“Cooperative” emphasizes that multiple federal agencies and universities are among the partners in this program. “Ecosystem Studies” involves the biological, physical, social, and cultural sciences needed to address resource issues and interdisciplinary problem solving at multiple scales and in an ecosystem context. The resources studied encompass both natural and cultural assets.

Homestead National Monument of America is located within the boundary of the Great Plains CESU. The Great Plains CESU is administered by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. However to complete its needed projects Homestead NM of America can work with any research university in the Great Plains CESU or any research university in another CESU.

Links to the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) National Network

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