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Travelogue: East Elk Lake Road First Contact

All the first year researchers were assigned a study site to visit and observe. East Elk Lake Road, located in the northwest corner of the study area, is a small reserve that has not been actively maintained. The site lies just off a gravel road and consists of plants by the roadside, with a ditch and hillock that run for around 200 meters alongside the road. A wetland surrounded by trees lies at the western edge of the study site, and the trees are encroaching on the prairie fragment. The study site is across the road from a larger prairie fragment contributing to a larger gene pool. The site south of the road had similar plant diversity suggesting more active management.

This study site was characterized by three different sets of plants. The edge of the gravel road is disturbed and the flora consists of a high abundance of brome as well as dandelion and Poa. Just beyond the disturbed road edge is a shallow ditch and sloping hillside. This area contained the highest diversity of forbs, grasses and legumes, many of which are native. Grasses included big bluestem and needle and thread grass. There were many native forbs, including Canada anemone, goldenrod and bedstraw. This was the only area in which Echinacea (a clump of four individuals) was found. We also found asparagus plants, some of which looked ready to eat! While many legumes are found in most study sites, this site had a surprising few native and nonnative legumes. Leadplant also grew along the hillside.  The top of the hillock was densely covered in nonnative brome, along with some relatively dense dogbane and prairie rose, but this area showed lower diversity than the hillside. This summit also featured tree saplings, no higher than five feet tall.

The size of woody trees and shrubs in the area and the large amount of duff on the hilltop suggests the site had not been burned for many years. Plant cover on the hilltop as well as an overgrown access road (we call this an approach) to the hilltop suggested the area had been used for grazing or farm fields.

View from approach with the brome along the gravel road shown on the left

View West from approach with brome along the gravel road shown on the left

 

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