Sunday, November 24, 2013

NATIVE ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION


November 9, 2013 at FLCC

Ben Zimmerman, Construction Manager and Restoration Ecologist of Applied Ecological Services, Inc. spoke to an audience of 20 about what it takes to recreate a diverse, functional native ecosystem.  Ben, a Wisconsin native and Stevens Point graduate, shared an informative power point presentation from which I took the following notes:

Ben introduced the three components of Applied Ecological Services as Consulting, Contracting, and Nursery.

Consulting includes components of Landscape Design, Ecological Assessment, Permitting, GIS, High Resolution Multi Spectrum Imaging, and Engineering.

The Nursery services cover 300 acres of land in Wisconsin focusing on over 400 species of native plants for local genotypes.  Native plants can become costly as they can be difficult to come by and difficult to clean.  Native seed is often measured by ounce instead of pound.  Seeds are collected from private and public land.  For the project at Seneca Meadows Wetlands Preserve many seeds were collected in 2007 from Montezuma.  Many of the seeds needed to be collected in narrow windows of time after keeping a careful watch on weather conditions. Ben explained that obtaining seeds from private land owners becomes a great public education service as awareness of property values and the diversity of species is explained.

There is an excellent video about the Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries on the front page of the AES website:  http://www.appliedeco.com/

Ben then focused much of the presentation on Contracting which covers: design-build, bioengineering, eco-construction, seeding, planting, erosion control, woodland brushing (invasive species removal), ecological management and maintenance.

The WHY of Ecological Restoration includes: biological diversity, wildlife habitat, water quality, air quality, soil building, carbon sequestration, educational, stewardship, sustainability, and aesthetics.

Projects come from: mitigation and wetland banking, remediation, habitat improvement, permit renewal, conservation development, green infrastructure, native landscaping, and invasive species.

Mitigation: 
·        Compensation for ‘unavoidable’ environmental impact…usually wetland impact.
·        Involves a calculated acreage ratio dependant on the nature of the impact.
·        If approached properly, can have positive outcomes.
·        Requires permitting from the state USACE (US Army Corp of Engineers)
                                    Replacing what is destroyed.

Wetlands
·        US has lost over 50% of our wetlands
·        Clean Water Act regulated by NYSDEC
·        USACE permits mitigation
·        Contamination – superfund sites, EPA – drives remediation
·        Disruption – dams agriculture management


Ben spoke specifically about the Seneca Meadows Inc. Dove Property Wetland Mitigation in Waterloo, NY and showed areal photographs from 2005, 2009, and 2011.  We heard about the forested wetlands, emergent marsh, wet mesic, and oak savanna prairie.  Ben had photos of the earth movers that were needed to give the flat farm lands some topography in 2008.  (He also showed us other “cool toys” like land tamers and amphibian vehicles.)  During the project, Indiana Bats were found to be present and project course needed to change to preserve trees to be protective habitat for the bats.  This resulted in several tree islands within the marsh. The installation phase included 420 acres of seeding, 10,000 trees and shrubs, and 164,000 plant plugs.

The SMI Dove Property is currently in the Management Phase (2011-2022) where controlled burns, backpack sprayers, and plows will be used to physically manage the project. 

Goals of Management:
·        Restore a functional native ecosystem
·        Recreate biological community that historically existed
·        Stabilize soils
·        Remove invasive species
·        Enhance existing ecosystems
·        Ultimately meet performance standards of permit for percentage of native and invasive plant species coverage

Monitoring:
·        woody and herbaceous
·        vegetation survey
·        reptile and amphibian survey
·        bird survey
·        fish survey
·        wetland delineation
·        water quality survey
·        hydrology monitoring
·        macro invertebrate survey

Our word of the day comes from hydrology monitoring with a tool called a piezometer: an instrument for measuring pressure or compressibility; especially one for measuring the change of pressure of a material subjected to hydrostatic pressure.  We saw a photo of a piezometer made with PVC pipe with tiny holes.  They are covered by black material – should you happen to notice any during your next walk through the Seneca Meadow Wetland Preserve.

Post AES Management: Audubon, NY will become the site stewards after AES completes their project.  SMI has set up an endowment fund that will provide a management budget for Audubon (which already has an educational center nearby). 

Ben told us about the SMI Black Brook Relocation/Cleaning projects which combined with the Dove Property (Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve) cover nearly 1000 acres.

Ben finished with an overview of a habitat improvement project in Grand Island, NY near the Niagara River called Little Beaver Island. 

For more about Seneca Meadows:
http://www.senecameadows.com/wetlands.php

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