Of Marshes and Machines
the diversity of habitat and function through the course of the renovation.
In 2012 we didn’t have any water control due to the ongoing construction and we experienced a historic drought. Although, this doesn’t sound like a good scenario the results weren’t bad. In response to these conditions we saw nodding smartweed pop up across much of the area, with millet and toothcup hanging on to the moist edges of the restored sloughs. During these drier conditions we were able to get out in the field and spread corn food plots around the area to provide additional food and cover during the immediate growing season and soil disturbance that would help germinate annual plants the following year.
In 2013 we had a wet cool spring that delayed the timing of drawing water down. As the summer progressed, successive rains continued to irrigate the wetland habitat at Unit A, which produced a greater expanse of millet along with pockets of wetter species like common plantain. Additionally, the plant communities varied depending upon the elevation and location within the pools. In the low lying sloughs the aquatic plants like water shield, pickerelweed, and water stargrass thrived. As I mentioned before, millet exploded in the flats and was followed by a golden ring of bidens on the upper end of the units. The wet conditions prevented corn food plots, but a few milo plots were scattered about later in the summer.
Working with Nature
The last two years illustrate the variability that weather has on our range of management actions and the potential plant responses. At the end of the day nutrients, soil, and water interact and the resulting conditions are used by a diversity of plants and animals. Understanding the ecological variability and these different potential options provides us with some flexibility when managing habitat from one year to the next. This helps us work with nature as opposed to fighting against it. Drawing the water down in some pools was well under way this year, but the recent rains remind us that our initial plans could change if this wet cycle continues.
The efficiency that technology often provides is great under optimal conditions. Unfortunately, optimal conditions rarely exist in wetlands so we must take a different approach and alter our expectations. Much like my great-grandpa used a variety of parts and pieces to build and repair his tractor, by promoting and using a diversity of plants the wetland habitat can handle the weather’s variability, take a beating, and keep on ticking into the next season.