Habitat & Conservation  |  11/08/2022

Creating Diverse Ecosystems in Southwest Indiana

Staff Photo

Quail Forever Farm Bill biologist provided technical recommendations for diverse seed mixes and management strategies for the restoration work in the park

By Olivia Fry, Southwest Indiana Farm Bill Biologist

In southwest Indiana, an effort for ecosystem development was implemented in 2015 when 95 acres of an old golf course were converted to a nature park. Knox County Park and Recreational Department acquired grant funding for the project through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, while the Quail Forever Farm Bill biologist provided technical recommendations for diverse seed mixes and management strategies for the restoration work in the park. Three types of ecosystem restorations were planned: prairie, woodland, and wetland. Each ecosystem is managed differently based on the vegetation present, and the desired conditions.

This year the park will receive its second prescribed burn on the prairie in late summer.

The prairie areas are split into three separate units for rotational burning. Only one unit is burned each year to leave two units available nesting as habitat for quail and other ground nesters, plus a refuge area for other wildlife and beneficial insects. This management practice will control the woody plants, remove the litter on the ground, and stimulate the wildflower component.

The woodland ecosystem is currently being managed for invasive plants, which typically outcompete the existing native flora and create monocultures. Control methods include hand pulling winter creeper, cut-stump herbicide application on bush honeysuckle, and foliar spraying poison hemlock, multiflora rose, and Canada thistle. The treatments are targeted in early spring and again in late fall to minimize collateral damage to the native species during their growing period.

The wetland is currently being monitored to ensure invasive species do not begin to invade. Keeping these areas vegetated in native plant species provides valuable refuge and food resources to waterfowl and other wildlife. The goal of management is to ensure the long-term sustainability and persistence of an ecosystem and the functions it provides.

The park is used for biking, fishing, and many other recreational activities that allow the community to explore the natural world. The nature park will continue to be managed through the guidance given by the biologist and used as a tool to teach conservation practices and management methods. With multiple ecosystem restorations and a wide variety of management practices ongoing, this site provides a valuable demonstration area for the local Quail Forever biologist, chapter, and partners to educate landowners on habitat restoration and management.

By Olivia Fry a Southwest Indiana Farm Bill Biologist

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Fall Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a member today!