Get access

Restoration of Midwestern U.S. Savannas: One Size Does Not Fit All

Authors

  • Connie L. Dettman,

    1. Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, 339 Science II Hall, Ames, IA 50011, U.S.A.
    2. Present address: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 500 Gunder Road NE, Elkader, IA 52043, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Catherine M. Mabry,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, 339 Science II Hall, Ames, IA 50011, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Lisa A. Schulte

    1. Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, 339 Science II Hall, Ames, IA 50011, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author

C. M. Mabry, email mabry@iastate.edu

Abstract

Lowland savannas are a rare variant of Midwestern United States savanna occurring on alluvial soils, for which reference information is sparse. To evaluate the appropriateness of using upland savanna as a surrogate source of reference information for lowland savanna, we studied a pre-Euro-American lowland savanna using original U.S. Public Land Survey data and other historical records. Historical vegetation was reconstructed and compared among upland savannas, lowland savannas, and lowland forests; we also evaluated potential disturbance dynamics maintaining these systems. We found that all three communities were dominated by members of the genus Quercus but also had extensive representation by many other tree species, especially notable for savannas in this region. There were no clear size–density relationships for species in the genus Quercus, indicating that these historical savannas were not characterized exclusively by large, scattered oak trees but rather by trees of many oak species and nonoak species in a wide range of size classes. Both upland and lowland savannas also contained a substantial shrub component. We found no evidence that lowland savannas were maintained by flooding, although the uneven-aged canopy structure suggested that periodic disturbance occurred. Restoration of lowland savanna in this region should include provisions for maintaining nonoak species and shrubs, with disturbance timed to maintain an uneven-aged canopy structure. Although the appropriateness of historical data in the face of climate change may be questionable, in this region, a warmer climate may actually help promote the “oak parkland” that was present from 8,000 BP up to Euro-American settlement.

Ancillary