Evaluating Restoration and Reconstruction Techniques in Missouri Prairie, Savanna, and Woodland

Research Issue

Carlee Steepe counting sericea stems.

In Missouri, research on prairie, savanna, and woodland restoration is not only advancing management of the Prairie Fork Conservation Area, it is fulfilling an objective of the 911-acre conservation area.

A mosaic of prairie, savanna, and woodland natural communities, the Prairie Fork Conservation Area was donated to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) just over 20 years ago and is cooperatively managed by MDC, the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources, The Prairie Fork Trust and the Missouri Prairie Foundation with four objectives: education, natural community restoration, development of restoration techniques, and research.
Northern Research Station scientists based in Columbia are collaborating with faculty from the University of Missouri on research addressing management concerns on the Prairie Fork Conservation Area, including controlling an invasive plant called sericea lespedeza in reconstructed prairie and establishing the diverse communities of native plants that are found in savanna and woodland ecosystems, both of which are restoration needs at the Prairie Fork Conservation Area and throughout Missouri.

Our Research

Research includes three components:

  • In an established prairie, how can managers control the invasive plant sericea lespedeza without sustained use of herbicide, which is labor-intensive and can affect desired prairie plants. Scientists are evaluating the rate of sericea lespedeza spread without the use herbicide and, further, evaluating the rate of spread in prairie restoration plots of different ages.
  • In a second component of the research, scientists are evaluating three hypotheses for establishing trees in reconstructed savanna communities, including that tree species with greater fire tolerance will have greater success establishing, trees produced using container grown trees will have greater success than trees developed as bare-root seedlings, and that reducing fuel and reducing competition via weed cloth or mowing will improve establishment success of trees.
  • In woodland ecosystems, researchers are evaluating the effects of increased light availability and soil scarification on ground flora seed germination following reconstruction seeding of native plants.

Expected Outcomes

Research will produce scientific information managers can incorporate into Prairie Fork Conservation Area management. For example, research on the spread of sericea lespedeza without herbicide treatment can inform managers as the potential to modify current herbicide prescriptions while maintaining acceptable control.

Research Results

Experiments were installed in the summer of 2019 and results are not yet available.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Lauren Pile, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Ecologist
  • Benjamin O. Knapp, University of Missouri – Columbia, School of Natural Resources, Associate Professor
  • Dacoda Maddox, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Technician

Research Partners

  • Dan Dey, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Ecologist
  • John Kabrick, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Ecologist
  • Jeff Demand, Missouri Department of Conservation, Wildlife Management Biologist
  • Chris Newbold, Missouri Department of Conservation, Natural History Biologist
  • Last modified: December 16, 2019