Remnant Prairies News

Here is information about developments at Remnant Prairies.

New Documentation Added to Site

We’ve now plugged most of the holes in the documentation about how the Remnant Prairies online tools work. Check out in particular the Prairie Assessment section, and please post in the comments any things you find unclear or missing.

Thanks in advance for your interest in Remnant Prairies!

Major Updates to Remnant Prairies Web Site!

We’re in the process of making some major updates to the Remnant Prairies web site. In addition to the new focus and look, we’ve substantially updated our online tools.

Things are still in flux — note the “beta” flag in our logo — so please be patient as we work things through. We plan to

  • expand and revise the documentation on the site — which is mostly just stubbed out at this point
  • add illustrated tutorials about use of our online tools
  • fix whatever other problems show up

We’ve tested the site with most flavors of browsers, including the old and highly problematic versions of Internet Explorer (6 and 7). IE renders the site acceptably, but things look as we intend them to look when you use a proper browser — Firefox, Safari, or Camino.

We’re committed to making the site as useful and appealing as possible. Please email us with any suggestions, problems, or other feedback. Thanks!

Demo Location Tools Now Require Login For Experimentation

Our brief trial allowing anonymous visitors to experiment with the various Location tools (including FQA calculations) has come to a not-unexpected halt. Whether trolls or automated bots, someone/something has been stuffing bogus information and links into the various fields of the Konza Prairie demo location. This is entirely unacceptable.

From now on, in order to test the various tools that manipulate georegions and score FQAs at the demo location, you have to signup and login.

Multi-State FQA Calculations Now Supported

As we explain in this article, Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) calculations are location-specific. A plant that is endemic and valuable in one location may be a noxious weed in another. Hence FQA studies only make sense when the calculations are done using coefficient of conservatism (CoC) values for the particular location of interest.

Most CoC values have been determined for state-sized jurisdictions. Comprehensive databases have been compiled for Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Michigan. We have imported all these data into our plants database here at the RPA web site, and we now can generate FQAs using the particular data for each of these states. These additional data have increased the number of plant species in our database from about 3000 to just under 5000!

When creating or editing a location, you can now set its default state — which determines which CoC values are used for all FQA calculations at that location. (Ideally, we’d let Google Maps figure out which state contains the location, but this won’t work for locations crossing state lines or for locations in states without current CoC values — though it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to do FQAs there anyway.) The operative state defaults to Kansas, since that is where RPA is most active.

In the plants database you will see listed for each plant the states for which we have CoC values for that plant. We also show that information when you’re selecting plants for inclusion. Theoretically you’ll know exactly the right species to select and it will have a CoC value for your state. However, if the plant you think you want doesn’t have a CoC value for your state, there’s a good chance that your identification is faulty and you should pick one of the related species that does have CoC values for your location. Remember, these CoC data have been compiled by the botanical experts in your state! They’re much more likely to be right than we amateurs are.

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New Organizations Section

Because of the substantial and evolving number of prairie organizations and projects out there, we’ve moved our listings from a static page into a database-driven section: Organizations.

You can browse through the organizations we’re tracking here, or you can “search” through them via categorical “tags” we’ve assigned to them. On the main organizations page, you can see the relative number of organizations having particular characteristics by checking the size of the particular tags.

We know that we’ve missed many important organizations at this point, and we’ll add them in as we find them. Please post any suggestions in the comments section! Thanks!

New Pages About Measurement and Monitoring

Since our current efforts are taking a rather more quantitative direction, we’ve put up some additional background documentation that we hope will be useful, mostly accurate, or at least not flagrantly misleading.

Please post any corrections or additions in the comments sections! Thanks!

New FAQ About Locations and FQAs

We’ve just added a new detailed FAQ about how to use the new Location tools and particularly the procedures for managing Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) data. Since these tools accomplish nontrivial tasks, there is no way to make them completely effortless. There are some basic concepts that you need to understand — and this FAQ explains them.

Of course, we’re still refining these systems — and we very much appreciate feedback we’ve received so far. Please post any comments you have to the FAQ, to this news post, to any relevant page in the demos, or email us. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide to make these online tools more useful!

New GIS and FQA Tools

We’ve finally gotten around to adding some tools to the site that we’ve been thinking about for quite a while. These tools enable users to define areas of interest at a geographical location using a Google Maps-based mashup and to conduct floristic quality assessment studies on those areas.

Here’s a brief explanation of what this means (until we get around to writing more complete documentation).

Geographical Information System Tools (GIS)

Anyone doing serious study of lands such as remnant prairies needs to identify specific parcels or locations on those lands — for doing inventory studies, marking particular plants or landforms, etc. Professionals and those with big budgets typically use a very expensive computer application called ArcGIS from ESRI though there are a number of open-source GIS apps out there as well.

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The Prairie Enthusiasts

We’ve just learned of a great group operating in southern Illinois and Wisconsin — The Prairie Enthusiasts.

This group organizes itself into local chapters that locate and manage prairie remnants. They provide lots of hands-on work collecting and processing seed, planting, weeding, etc. They currently manage over 100 sites that cover over 4000 acres — owning outright 18 sites with 942 acres, conservation easements on over 800 acres more, and management agreements for the rest. They’ve planted over 500 acres in their reconstruction efforts. They also do educational projects (a newsletter, lectures, and fieldtrips) to spread the word.

Here is a nice news report about their activities.

In many ways, this is like the Dyck Arboretum’s Prairie Window Project on a much larger scale — multiplied by the “local chapter” structure.

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Herbivores on the Prairies

It’s always exciting to see large herbivores restored to a prairie, and here’s the latest case. The Broken Kettle Grasslands managed by the Nature Conservancy in Iowa has just re-introduced 30 bison. Initially the bison will be held in a 125 acre “trap pasture” during the winter, but then they’ll have the rest of the grasslands 3000 acres to recreate in.

Of course, most remnant prairies don’t have 3000 or even 300 acres and so aren’t candidates for bison. An alternative in use in a quite different situation in California are goats. To avoid over-grazing, careful herding obviously is necessary. If enough remnant prairies could be organized in relatively close proximity, this would seem to offer an interesting opportunity to someone with goat herds in need of grazing.

These two items came to us via the regular newsletter of the Society of Ecological Restoration. This group is definitely worth joining so you get their newsflashes directly, but we’ll continue to re-post news of interest here.