July 29, 2016: Long-term Monitoring and Novel Ecosystems at the E.S. George Reserve

Friday, July 29, 2016 - 5:00pm
Hike Location: 
University of Michigan E.S. George Reserve (https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/esgr/) https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/esgr/home/location/

The University of Michigan E.S. George Reserve has been studied for a long time and is a great example of the interconnected roles of deer and invasive species in the dynamics of old fields and forests. We will discuss: How can research on ecosystem dynamics from long-term monitoring (including studies of individual species, surveys of various species groups, long-term forest and old-field monitoring plots, and studies by field classes) inform regional restoration and management efforts?

The George Reserve is also an interesting site in terms of invasive species management. Without systematic management many of the old fields have become dominated by invasives such as autumn olive and Japanese barberry. When and to what do we manage or restore such heavily invaded sites that have become "novel ecosystems?"

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Here are some of the main topics discussed on the hike (see related pictures below):

In the forest:

- We discovered many oak seedlings, but not saplings, and the long term data set shows that oaks are not recruiting, but maples are. We wondered about the "natural" rate of oak recruitment from seedling to sapling.

- What data would help us better understand the future and function of this forest? Fruit production of shrubs (appeared to be low - interesting both in terms of recruitment as well as habitat for wildlife), seedling and saplings (the long-term data set only follows trees > 10 cm dbh and it was noted that observational bias is stronger with the small things, so need more actual data on that ), deer browse (was evident), shade/light levels, and birds spp.by trophic groups

- Research that would be of interest: burning- thinning factorial design

In the "old field" (now dominated by a variety of non-native bird-dispersed plants)

- Does have oak recruitment - some of them were larger than the autumn olive

- Would recommend rotational dormant season mowing, though some discussion about whether this disturbance would increase invasive

- At the edge of the field the sandy soil is dominated by lichens - wondered whether this could be evidence of hot slash pile burn which can burn up the soil organic matter and have long-term (80-100 years) effect on soil

Hike Facilitator: 
Hike facilitators may include Jacqueline Courteau (restoration ecologist who conducted long-term field work at ESGR on deer and invasives), David Allen (director of long-term forest monitoring project, now at Middlebury College), and Sheila Schueller (University of Michigan faculty who also teaches field courses).