Restoring Oak Savanna

Dirt Rich PodcastAs we approach our big field day at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge that will demonstrate targeted grazing to restore oak savanna, we thought it would be a good time to revisit this episode with Tyler Carlson and Stephen Thomforde we released last February.

Tyler and Stephen pick up their conversation on oak savanna from Episode 23— How do we restore oak savanna? What does it take? Where have we been and what’s been missed in prior restoration attempts?

According to Thomforde, “restoration is restoring the processes that maintain the desirable vegetation.” He dives into a variety of techniques used to do so including spraying, mowing, burning, baling, and grazing. Knowing what to take and what to leave is key in changing the trajectory of an ecosystem.

Thomforde and Carlson also get into a popular question: do we really need fire? What is necessary to maintain the savanna once you have it where you want it? To parse out an answer to that question, Thomforde walks us through historical and ecological perspectives. Considering the relationship between burning and grazing, the pair land on grazing as a primary tool and burning as a secondary tool to maintain savanna grassland; grazing reduces the necessity of burning.

The opportunity of farming and restoring oak savanna simultaneously is exciting, and Thomforde looks forward to the growing cooperation between farmers and conservationists to build understanding and successful restoration work. He imagines the potential that could stem from bringing grazers back into the picture on more of the landscape, even in urban areas: a stronger local food economy, more meaningful jobs. The possibilities just might be as diverse as the ecosystem itself.

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