The PHiLL Project: Creating Pollinator Habitat in Log Landings

Research Issue

[photo:] Researchers pause with their tools for a selfie.Bees play a critical role in ecosystem health and sustainability across the globe. They pollinate flowers, trees and other plants that in turn provide food and habitat for other creatures. Their role in pollinating agricultural crops is invaluable.  But recently scientists have observed that many pollinating species, including wild bees, are declining in range or abundance and the Midwest United States has among the lowest predicted bee abundance.

Several of the culprits associated with declines in bee populations are pesticide use, climate change, and disease, but habitat loss may be the most serious threat. Reduction in pollinator abundance corresponds to reductions in the plants on which they rely. Boosting the abundance, diversity, and continuity of floral resources and bee nesting sites may be one way to help reverse this trend.

Log landings, open areas in forests where logs are processed and stacked before being loaded onto logging trucks, have been identified as sites with potential to boost floral resources and in turn bee populations. On the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana, forest staff have been leading an effort to facilitate the rapid establishment of ephemeral pollinator habitat in recent log landings. They have run into several barriers to success, however. Soil compaction, fertility, and erosion, residual mulch and logging debris, and competition from invasive species have limited germination and growth of seeded species. Soil remediation and biochar as a soil amendment coupled with enrichment plantings could increase success.

We are conducting a field experiment to address the issues of soil compaction and other site characteristics hampering the development of floral resources for native bees, and the sequestration of carbon in soils on log landings.

Our Research

The research is being conducted on three National Forests in the Midwest: the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana, Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. On each forest, scientists selected five log landings to receive treatments and for comparison, five landings that will revegetate naturally. On each treated landing, scientists will compare a Complete treatment, a soil Remediation only, and a soil Amendment only treatment to an untreated Control.

The Control plots are treated with Log Landing Standard Practices commonly used in rehabilitating log landing sites.  Standard practices include removal of mulch and excess logging debris, implementing erosion measures and preparing a seedbed.

Complete treatment plots will begin with Log Landing Standard Practices (described above). They will also receive biochar amendments, subsoil remediation and a split-plot application of a native pollinator seed mix. Biochar amendments have been shown to increase vegetation growth rates and improve soil health across a range of ecological systems and soil conditions. Biochar application has also been associated with reduction in invasive species. Subsoil remediation will reduce compaction.  Finally, the pollinator seed mix, representing generalist, native flora, adapted to a wide range of site conditions, will be applied.

In Remediation only plots the treatment starts with the Log Landing Standard Practice followed by subsoil remediation to reduce compaction and a split-plot application of the pollinator seed mix.

Amendment only plots will start with the Log Landing Standard Practice followed by application of biochar and a split-plot seeding with the pollinator seed mix.

Scientists will monitor the plots for vegetation and floral availability, soil characteristics, and presence of pollinators. The study will continue for 3 years.

Expected Outcomes

The study will result in a General Technical Report (GTR) synthesis of the project outcomes and a management guide including best management practices (BMPs) for establishing ephemeral pollinator habitat in log landings. Management guidelines including BMPs will also be shared via webinar and through site visits. Outreach to other forests and landowners will be conducted to describe results and impact of these restoration practices on pollinators (plants and insects), vegetation, and soil. The project will also result in two master’s theses and several peer-reviewed publications.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Dan Dey, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Forester
  • Todd Hutchinson, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Ecologist
  • John Kabrick, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Forester
  • David King, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Wildlife Biologist
  • Susannah Lerman, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Ecologist 
  • Debbie Page-Dumroese, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Soil Scientist
  • Lauren Pile, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Ecologist

Technical Staff

  • Dacoda Maddox, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Forestry Technician
  • Texas Nall, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Forestry Technician

Collaborators

  • Daniel Boone National Forest (Kentucky)

    • David Taylor, Forest Botanist
  • Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests (South Carolina)
    • Robin Mackie, Forest Botanist/Ecologist
  • Hoosier National Forest (Indiana)
    • Jason Combs, Timber Management Assistant 
    • Cheryl Coon, Forest Botanist 
    • Steve Harriss, Wildlife Biologist 
    • Jason Isbell, Bio Science Technician 
    • Chad Menke, Hydrologist  
    • Evanna Phelps, Bio Science Technician  
    • Justin Swaim, Forest Silviculturist
    • Chris Thornton, Ecosystems Program Manager
  • Kisatchie National Forest (Louisiana)
    • Dave Moore, Forest Botanist  
  • Mark Twain National Forest (Missouri)
    • Brian Davidson, Forest Botanist/Range  
    • Theresa Davidson, Forest Wildlife Biologist
    • Casey Hawes, Timber Program Manager
    • Clifford Smith, Forest Service Representative
    • Scot Robinson, District Silviculturist
    • Kyle Steele, Forest Ecologist and Soil Scientist
    • Mike Stevens, District Silviculturist
    • Megan York-Harris, District Wildlife Biologist
  • Region 8 (Headquartered in Atlanta, GA)
    • Dennis Krusac, Endangered Species Specialist/Pollinator Conservation Coordinator  
  • Region 9 (Headquartered in Milwaukee, WI)
    • Sierra Dawkins, Regional Botanist 
    • Greg Nowaki, Regional Ecologist
    • Jason Stevens, Regional Rangeland Ecologist and Management Specialist
  • Shawnee National Forest (Illinois)
    • Scott Crist, Fire Management Officer
    • Justin Dodson, Forest Silviculturist  
    • Brooke Hagarty, Forest Hydrologist and Soil Scientist  
    • Elizabeth Longo, Botanist
    • Leonard Pitcher, Supervisory Natural Resource Specialist  
    • Jim Purrenhage, Timber Sale Administrator  
    • Shannon Sharp, Botanist  
    • Mark Vukovich, Wildlife Biologist
    • Dennis Wilson, Supervisory Timber  
  • Washington Office, USDA Forest Service
    • Brian Logan, National Wildlife Program Leader
    • Gary Scott, Mensuration & Appraisal Specialist, Enterprise Program
  • Wayne National Forest (Ohio)
    • Gerald “Trey” Scott, Forest Botanist  
  • Last modified: March 22, 2021