Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Managing Your Green

Fragmented forest space, like this, has too many edges to be
effective forest.
So as it turns out, all open spaces are not created equally -- at least not when it comes to the wildlife and natural services they are intended to perform.

In short, round is better.

That was just part of the lesson Peter Williamson, vice president of preservation services for the Natural Lands Trust, had for the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee recently.

Williamson was there to talk about the various aspects of open space management with which municipal officials may not be familiar.

Now in its 60th year, Williamson said Natural Lands Trust has 41 preserves and one quarter of them are in Montgomery County.

Better to have one large forest, like this.
One thing those years have taught the preserve managers, Williamson said, is that
fragmented open space does not provide the range or benefits or larger sized preserves, and further, that "edges" reduce that effectiveness even more.

For example forest edges allow more light and more invasive species to protrude deeper into the forest, reducing its effectiveness at water retention and as habitat for native species, he said.

Invasive species are perhaps the second largest problem facing preserved open space, both in meadows, marshes and forest.

Dumping fast-moving storm water into streams, causes
erosion like this.
Another challenge is deer which are multiplying in southeast Pennsylvania with no natural predators and eat everything below six feet high.

And lastly, there's storm water.

For many years, storm water was something engineers wanted to get rid of as quickly as possible. Then, when it was realized the sudden influx of high-velocity water to streams was damaging, it became necessary to hold or retain the water, to allow it to be absorbed into the ground and released through the ground as stream base flow as a more constant rate.

A healthy stream bank looks like this.
Any municipality that owns or manages open space, therefore, faces these challenges, Williamson explained.

When considering meadows, he provided several recommendations.

Only mow twice a year, around St. Patrick's Day and the Fourth of July. This allows the grasses to provide cover to animals that need them.

"Mow the edges, along roads, and it gives the property a managed feeling without impacting the wildlife," he suggested.

Also, plant a mix of warm and cool season grasses, so the meadow is more weather resilient and green for most of the year.
Mowing a meadow along the roadside, gives it
a managed look while preserving habitat.

To learn more, particularly about storm water management, mark your calendar for May 30.

That's when the organization's annual "Green Futures" event will be held, this year right here in Pottstown at the Montgomery County Community College's Pottstown Campus.

Click here for details and sign-up information.

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