What is Project iRestore?
Project iRestore is an engaging habitat restoration project involving invasive plant removal, biodiversity restoration and long term monitoring of 33 acres of prairie, wetland and forest habitats surrounding the ERC in the Kortright Conservation Area. Corporate volunteers have helped us remove invasive plants and plant perennial prairie plants while science students are helping to monitor the recovery of species in the ecosystem.
Why are we restoring habitat around the ERC ?
A biodiversity assessment of 33 acres of old meadow fields surrounding the ERC found that about 90% of the plants were invasive or dominant colonizing species. We decided to restore these fields to more native habitat areas: tall grass prairie (15 acres), deciduous forest (15 acres) and wetland (1 acre). In the spring of 2012 a 15 acre controlled burn of the fields removed many of the invasive species and allowed the native prairie seed bank access to light and water under reduced competition from invasive species. We then planted 2,000-3,000 native prairie grass seeds/square foot and 15,750 prairie forbs. Native plants like butterfly milkweed, black-eyed susans, tall sunflowers and big blue stem can now be seen in summer months. Native biodiversity of animals and plants is predicted to increase in the coming years.
How does it make us more sustainable?
The habitat restoration is encouraging the return of many native species that were either less common or not present in the previous old meadow habitat. Frogs have returned to the newly restored wetland, turkeys are scouring the grasses for food and pollinators are taking advantage of the increase in native flowering plants. Some studies suggest that certain species of invasive plants can outcompete native plants by releasing greenhouse gases into the troposphere.