Habitat Restoration Fundamentals


Welcome, everyone, to the
Monarch Habitat Restoration presentation. My name is Karene
Motivans, and I work at the US Fish and Wildlife
Service’s National Conservation Training Center. We’re here in West Virginia. We’re very pleased to be
co-hosting this webinar series with the Monarch Joint Venture. This is our second webinar, and
we’ll continue these programs throughout 2015. We’ve got a great diversity
of participants here today. Everyone, it seems, is
passionate about monarchs. We’ve got several
federal agencies here representing every
federal partner we’ve ever had, Forest Service, Park
Service, USGS, BLM, Department of Transportation. Welcome to the states. We love to see you
here, date state people who are land managers in places
like California, Minnesota, Florida, and Texas,
and all the Department of Transportation folks at
the state level, welcome. Counties are represented here. Shout out to Franklin County,
Ohio, Douglas County, Kansas. We’ve got tons of counties as
well as city governments here today, large and small. We have universities,
friends groups, many, many wonderful
conservation nonprofit group. And rounding out the
audience are consultants, master gardeners,
churches, nature centers, and home gardeners. Welcome, everyone. Since you’ve already
provided your email to us today, we’re going to make sure
that you’re sent announcements for future presentations. We’re also recording
today’s webinar, and it will be
available to you online. And we’ll make sure
you get that link. I’m excited to share
another monarch butterfly activity, The Wild Read. It’s an online book
club, and it is a space where we share book
discussions on conservation topics. And I’m very excited to
tell you that on March 1, The Wild Read will be hosted
by author Robert Michael Pyle, and he’ll discuss his
book Chasing Monarchs. That’s the cover of
the book down there in the lower left-hand corner. It’s a story that follows the
migratory route of monarchs. And he’s got such a
great writing style. He discovers the
secrets and tribulations of the monarch’s journey. He’s a respected
author on butterflies. Dr. Pyle has written
several books, including the Autobahn Society’s
Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. Find yourself a copy of
book Chasing Monarchs, join the conversation with
the author at our virtual book club. And share this opportunity with
your friends and co-workers. Before we begin,
I’d like to go over some of the features
of the live stream. This is the platform
we’re looking at today. We encourage questions
during the presentation, so use the chat box. Thank you for all
of you who have been using it to
kind of say hello and tell us where you’re from. It’s awesome. Type in your question down
there at that lower box way at the bottom
and then click Save. You can type in your
first name the first time. Once you’ve done that, you
can keep asking questions. Now of course we can’t
answer all your questions, but we’ve got a plan for that. We’re going to collect
all the questions and provide answers to them
over the next week or so and post that up on the website. So we’ll try to
categorize them and really try to reach every
one of your questions. Finally, if you’re not
getting a good Internet connection or your
computer speakers give out, or you maybe have to leave and
you want to join and listen in on the phone line. You can do this. We have a listen-only option. It’s a last resort–
you would not be able to see the slides– if
you’re just using your phone. But remember, the entire
program will be recorded and you can watch it later. And we will email you that link. So without further ado,
I’m going to turn it over to Wendy Caldwell, our
coordinator at the Monarch Joint Venture and my esteemed
partner in this webinar series. She’s going to introduce
our speaker today. Thanks, Karene,
and hi, everyone. Thank you again for
joining us today. I’m very pleased to introduce
our speaker, Eric Lee-Mader, from the Xerces Society for
Invertebrate Conservation. Eric is a co-director of
their pollinator program, their pollinator conservation
program at the Xerces Society. He works with farmers,
gardeners, land managers, and agencies from
across the world to restore native habitat in
working agricultural land. In today’s
presentation he’s going to focus specifically on
habitat restoration for monarch butterflies. So welcome, Eric, and
we’re looking forward to the information you’re
going to share today. All right. Thank you, Wendy, and
thank you, Karene. And thank you for everybody
who’s tuning in today. We’ve got a lot of
material to cover this afternoon, or this
morning, depending on where you are in the country. And we’re going to try to
move on fairly quickly. And I recognize that
there will probably be a lot of questions
throughout the presentation. And Wendy will be serving
as sort of my wing person throughout the
presentation, and we will pause at some
relevant moments and try to take some
of your questions. And if we go a little
bit over, Wendy and I are prepared to stay
on the line as well and answer some additional
questions for those of you who can stick around. So why don’t we
dive right in here and talk about habitat
restoration basics? And this really
is a presentation intended to cover the basics. And my work focuses broadly
on pollinator conservation, especially pollinator
conservation in agricultural land. So some of the themes
that we’ll talk about here have relevance
beyond just monarchs and have relevance for
things like native bees. And where appropriate
I’ll try to highlight some of those other benefits
to other wildlife groups. But first, for those
of you who may not be familiar with
the Xerces Society, we are sort of the Autobahn
Society of insects. We are perhaps the oldest
wildlife conservation organization in
the United States that most people are
not so familiar with. We are an organization,
a nonprofit organization that takes their name from this
animal, the now-extinct Xerces Blue Butterfly. This was the first butterfly to
go extinct in the United States due to human-influenced
habitat loss. It was actually a casualty
of the Second World War, when the last of its
habitat was paved over to build a naval base for the
war effort in the San Francisco area. The Xerces Society
began originally as a butterfly
conservation organization. And over time we’ve
expanded our focus to work on things like
fresh water mussels and rare tiger beetles
and pollinators such as native bees. We work on a vast diversity of
invertebrate wildlife groups. And if you consider the fact
that the majority of all described living organisms on
earth are invertebrate animals, then I think you understand
the relevance of our work and what our mission
is all about. So within the
Xerces Society we’ve got a couple of
core program areas. We have an endangered
species program. We have an aquatic
conservation program. We have a program working
on pesticide policy issues. And then we have our pollinator
conservation program, which may be increasingly more
accurately described or defined as an agricultural
biodiversity program. This is the program
that I co-direct, and I’ll talk a little
bit specifically here about that program. So the Xerces pollinator
conservation team has staff biologists located
in California, Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New
Jersey, and North Carolina. We’re a growing team and we’re
adding staff pretty regularly across the country at
this point in time. Many of those staff people
are in joint partner biologist roles with the USDA’s Natural
Resources Conservation Service. And that team really encompasses
an amazing professional background, people
with backgrounds in farming and restoration of
natural habitats, backgrounds in research
entomology, beekeeping, and my own background is in
crop consulting and native seed production. And a lot of those skills
are relevant to the work that we do here at the
Xerces Society today. The Xerces Society’s
pollinator conservation program also is engaged in extensive
education and outreach on pollinator conservation,
again, focused primarily on farmers and farm agencies. But we also do outreach to
gardeners and naturalists and other conservation
organizations. And we routinely reach
thousands, if not tens of thousands
of people a year through events like this as
well as in-person workshops and field days and web content
and publications and so on. We really are increasingly
an international organization working in all 50
states, and then working increasingly
in places like Europe and Latin America and Asia. I won’t say much about our
pesticide risk reduction f other than to
note that pesticides are a factor in
pollinator declines, and the use of pesticides has
a direct impact on pollinator conservation efforts. And so for folks who are
interested in that– and I won’t, again, talk specifically
about pesticide risk reduction or pesticide risk
mitigation today– but I will highlight
some of our resources later on in the presentation
for those of you who are interested in factoring
that into conservation plans. And then the Xerces Society
ourselves support and engage in direct habitat
restoration for pollinators. And since 2008 we’ve
supported the restoration of around 200,000 acres
of wildflower-rich habitat for pollinators across
the United States. All right. And so to dive
right in, here let’s talk about why we should
restore habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. And I’m sure that everybody
tuning into the webinar today has a general understanding
of the population trends with monarch butterflies. And according to the
best available science, we think the picture is
not very bright right now. We think that over the
past 20 years or so, we have seen perhaps a 90%
population decline in monarchs. And of course there is both an
eastern population of monarchs and a western population,
the western population being the one that over winters
in California along the coast. And we’ve seen
significant declines in both of these populations. And there are a number
of factors in play, and I’ll touch on a
few of those factors. But it’s worth noting
that in talking to some of my colleagues
here at Xerces and talking to other monarch
conservation professionals, it’s been interesting to
hear this feedback from them that in looking at the
population decline of monarchs, one of the other species that
that decline model resembles is that of the passenger
pigeon, which is really sort of an alarming angle to
the story of monarch decline. So some of the factors
driving monarch decline include things like the loss
of over wintering habitat in places like Mexico or
along the California coast. It likely includes the impact
insecticides and herbicides and the loss of
milkweed as a result of herbicide use in different
agricultural systems. But I want to draw
your attention to these other
significant trends that impact pollinators
across the United States. And one of these
significant trends has just been the overall
loss of permanent perennial grassland and prairie
in the United States, especially in the Midwest
and upper Midwest, where we have historically had large
areas of conservation easement plans on private farms. And with the increasing value
of commodity crops like corn and soybeans, there has been
this real incentivization of the farming
community to convert more of that long-term
conservation land back into productive cropland. And of course that that’s
alarming from a monarch conservation standpoint. But these changes
in land use, changes in the ubiquity of
insecticides in the landscape, are having effects
beyond just monarchs. So I want to make this point,
that monarch declines are really only part of the story. And we are seeing similar,
in some cases perhaps significantly more
alarming, declines in some of our
other pollinators. And this is particularly true
among our native bumblebees. And we’ve got some
great folks here at the Xerces Society who are
working to better understand the conservation status of
these other pollinators, and have done really
interesting work here done around bumblebees
and these findings that perhaps one in three,
or 30% of North America’s bumblebee species, are
potentially at risk of decline if not risk of extinction. And looking at your
screen here, for example, you can see in the
upper right-hand corner, Franklin’s bumblebee. This is a bumblebee that was
native to the west coast, to California and Oregon. And this is a species that
we think may be extinct today and we have these other
species of bumblebees that are increasingly imperiled as well. So habitat restoration
doesn’t just support monarchs, but it supports these
other pollinators as well. And of course beyond
bumblebees, we’re seeing declines in
our managed honeybees. And in the past
half century or so we’ve seen about a 50% decline
in the number of managed honeybees in this country. In that same time frame we’ve
seen a doubling of cropland that requires bee pollination. So we have these
two opposing trends that should cause all
of us some concern about the sustainability
of our agriculture and the sustainability
of ecosystem services like pollination. There are many factors
in play that are impacting honeybee declines. In all likelihood, habitat
loss is playing a role. The introduction of diseases
and parasites like the varroa mite here you can see on
the back of this honeybee are also factors in
honeybee declines. But I want to make the
point that beyond monarchs, pollinators in general are
something that we should all be thinking about today. So what can we do? I’m asked regularly
here in my work, what is the single most
important thing that anybody can do to protect monarchs
or to protect bumblebees or to conserve
pollinators as a whole? And I really want
to make the point habitat is the key ingredient. In the case of
monarchs specifically, habitat provides nectar to
sustain breeding and migration. Habitats provide milkweed
host plants for the monarchs to lay eggs on. Habitat can and should provide
refuge from pesticides. It should provide sort of a
safe zone for pollinator numbers to increase and to spread
across the landscape and to mitigate the
impacts of areas where pesticides may
be used intensively. And habitat actually has some
real world economic benefits. If we look, again,
beyond monarchs and look at
pollinators in general and the role of habitat,
we can see, for example, that we’ve got research
coming out of Michigan State University showing
that wildflower field borders planted near blueberry
farms result in direct yield increases to those
adjacent crops. In some cases,
the wild bees that are sustained by these
wildflower-rich field borders can contribute hundreds of
pounds of additional fruit through increased
pollination to those farms, resulting in hundreds of
dollars of additional crop value per acre on an annual basis. Habitat, again,
supports honeybees, and we see that research
demonstrating honeybee access to more diverse pollen
and nectar sources results in a greater immune response
on the part of honeybees. So it makes them more resistant
to things like diseases if they have all of
the micronutrients that a large, diverse array of
different wildflower pollens and nectars can provide them. We see that habitat can
enhance pest control in farms and gardens. Research demonstrates that
if more than 20% of a farm is in diverse habitat,
that measurable levels of pest control, like beneficial
insects like syrphid flies can be observed
throughout crop fields. And the Xerces Society is just
wrapping up some wonderful work in California with partners
at UC Berkeley that actually tested this. We, for example, took
stinkbug egg masses. Stinkbugs are a significant
agricultural pest of some crops in California. We took the egg masses
of the stinkbug, and we put them on,
basically, index cards, and pinned these index
cards at different distances out in the middle
of a crop field. And then we looked at
the adjacent habitat surrounding those
crop fields, and we saw that the crop fields that
were surrounded by native, draught-resistant, flowering
California trees and shrubs, that where that native plant
field border was present, we could go out 100 or
200 meters into the middle of the crop field and see
more of those stinkbug eggs attacked by beneficial
insects than we saw on farms that did
not have native plant habitats surrounding them. So habitat actually
enhances pest control. And conversely,
the research also bears out that habitat does
not generally support pests. So pests of agricultural
crops generally don’t thrive in things
like native plant hedgerows or wildflower field borders. And this was part of our
UC Berkeley Xerces study. We actually saw that native
plant habitats surrounding cropland actually
supported fewer pests, like aphids or cucumber beetles
or flea beetles than highly disturbed weedy habitats
surrounding those same fields. So habitat is really
the key ingredient. And from here, I’m
going to move into sort of the nuts and bolts
of how you approach habitat restoration
as a process, and the step by
step fundamentals. But I do want to pause here
and just check in with Wendy. And Wendy, do we have
one or two key questions that we want to pause
for at this point, or should we keep going? I’m going to let you
keep going at this point. We’ve had a few questions
come in, but a lot of people want to get into the nuts and
bolts of habitat restoration. So I’m going to
let you keep going. All right. Sounds good. Let’s dig in here to the
habitat restoration process. And there are
different approaches to restoring native plant
habitats for monarchs or for other wildlife. What I’m going to give you here
is sort of the Xerces Society’s approach, this five-step
or five-phase process to habitat restoration,
which includes site selection and evaluation, planning and
design, site preparation, plant establishment, and the
long-term management of those restored areas. And I will drill down
into each of these phases here in a little
bit more detail. So let’s look at Phase 1,
site selection and evaluation. This is the part of
the restoration process where you’re really
identifying your project goals, you’re delineating the size
of the restoration area. And as part of that, what
we typically do is we use tools like soil
maps to understand what types of native plants
that particular site is going to be most hospitable for. We will sometimes conduct more
of a formal habitat assessment process or habitat
assessment survey. And I’ll direct you to the
Xerces Habitat Assessment Guide here at the end of
our presentation. But we also want to
understand what was the site’s historic condition. So it’s important
to ask, for example, are we trying to create a
wildflower meadow on a soil type or in a biome that
normally would be a hardwood forest or a conifer forest. And that’s not to
say we can’t do it, but that it necessitates sort
of a different thinking process, and it may be a different
site preparation process, and a different
set of expectations. And really, what
we are primarily trying to do in most
cases is identify sort of the historic baseline
condition of the site and to replicate that. So was it formerly
tall grass prairie? Was it formerly a native
California grassland? What can we do to restore
that heritage to the site? We also are interested in
things like whether or not there’s herbicide use
on the site that may have some residual activity. So things like Treflan may
inhibit seed germination, and we want to know
about things like that. We want to know how
weedy the site is so that we have a sense of
how much dormant weed feed we’re going to be fighting
against in a particular restoration site. And of course we want to
evaluate the surrounding land use as well, and
recognize, for example, that habitat
adjacent to cropland might be prone to
pesticide drift. And we need to think about
that and maybe scale back expectations, or
work with the farm to reduce pesticide use on
at least the most immediately adjacent part of
the crop system. But we need to factor in all of
these different site-specific and adjacent land use factors
in designing a good restoration project. So this moves us into Phase 2,
the planning and design phase. And in this phase
it’s really important that you first begin with
a realistic timeline. So if you’re looking
at a site that may have been neglected for
years and years and years, and may be dominated by
invasive non-native vegetation, you have to move into
that process recognizing that it may take longer than it
would to convert a relatively clean site, a site that
has not been dominated by invasive weeds, for example. And it’s important, as part of
that timeline planning process, to factor in when you
should be doing things like seeding or
adding transplants so that you’re planting
at the correct time of the year for seeds to
germinate and establish or for transplants to be
able to establish themselves without going through prolonged
periods of hot, dry weather, et cetera. Now we use, at the
Xerces Society, a number of tools to help
with this planning process. We use, for example
aerial photos of farms. Software as basic
as Google Earth can help you look
at a site overhead and begin to delineate
the project boundaries. For slightly more
sophisticated tools, we can use the USDA Natural
Resources Conservation Services online soil surveys to
look at aerial photos and to overlay soil maps
with those project sites. We look at our own plant
guides and the plant guides of other conservation
organizations and agencies to help inform plant selection
so that we can identify which species are locally adapted. We want to, of course, make sure
that the species that we want to plant and
establish on that site are actually
commercially available. So we spend a lot of time
looking at native seed company catalogs and
inventory databases. We begin, sort of
in the second phase, to start to
formulate seed mixes. And we do this using the
Xerces Seed Mix Calculator, which you can download–
I’ve got the link here on the screen for those of you
who are interested in that– but this is a simple
Excel spreadsheet that we can enter different wildflower
or native grass species into. We can enter the price
of those species. We can decide how much
of the plant community, on a percentage
basis, we want to be milkweed, for example, versus
a grass like little bluestem. And we can make
these calculations and the Seed Mix Calculator
will automatically total up the amount of seed
we need to buy for the project area, and it will help us
estimate the cost of that as well. Moving into Phase 3. So after the initial site
selection and evaluation and then the planning
and design process, the most important part of
native plant restoration is really site preparation. And I know that there’s
a lot of opinions in the world among
restoration ecologists about the correct process
for restoring native plant communities. But this is one
area where I think there’s really broad consensus,
that site preparation is the single most important step. And this is the phase
where you really get what you pay for in terms
of both financial investments as well investments
of time and labor. And consistently,
I think, we see that weed eradication,
specifically, within the site preparation phase, is
really, really important and probably the most
critical factor for success. So on really, really weedy
sites we will sometimes invest more than a
year to remove not just the existing vegetation but to
try to deplete the dormant weed seed bank. Now many people in the
restoration ecology world are highly, highly
dependent upon herbicides for weed abatement and to remove
existing competing vegetation. And that can certainly work. There are other approaches to
weed abatement and preparing an area for replanting
a native vegetation. One that we really like
is solarization, which is the use of high tunnel. UV-stabilized high tunnel
is a type of greenhouse. So it’s basically
UV-destabilized greenhouse plastic that we put on the
ground and bury the edges and allow the sunlight,
throughout the summer months, to heat the soil
underneath, killing both the existing vegetation and
killing the dormant weed seed, and in all likelihood
killing some of the soil microbial communities
that is associated with the root systems of
non-native vegetation. This is a process that has,
for us, been more successful than the use of herbicides,
and it’s something that we are continuing
to do more of on a larger and larger scale. And we’ve had success with
this both in warm climates like California, but also
in more northern latitudes and in cooler climates as well. Solarization does, of
course, depend upon plastic. Plastic is something
that we don’t want to see end up in landfills. And our philosophy has been
to look for durable plastic that we can reuse. And in the case of
some farms, we’ll just lift it up from one site
and move it over and put it down on a new area, and in
sort of a patchwork way, begin to solarize
larger, and larger areas and restore larger and larger
areas, over an extended period, to natural habitats
for pollinators. So solarization has been
really effective for us because it does specifically
help kill the dormant weed seed in the ground
and create a much less competitive environment
for native plants to become established in. Conversely, if you
are using herbicides, the standard
advice– and I would tend to agree with this–
the standard advice is to not cultivate the soil after
spraying it with herbicides simply because that can bring
up very dormant weed seed closer to the soil surface,
where it can germinate and it can present a competitive
disadvantage for anything that you plant in that area. So we don’t typically recommends
pillage of any kind as a site preparation process. We do recommend some basic seed
bed preparation, basically just lightly smoothing the surface. And on small sites that
might just consist of raking. On a larger sites
it might consist of rolling the
area with something like an agricultural cultipacker
or a water-filled turf grass roller that you might
see used on golf courses or on peoples’ lawns to
smooth out clods in the soil. But basically we recommend
folks not cultivate the soil, do what they can to deplete
the dormant weed seed, and to try to create a
fairly smooth, open seed bed for planting into. And we’ve got more details about
this process in publications like Establishing Pollinator
Meadows from Seed. You can see the download
address there on your screen, and I will direct you
to those resources here again later on in
the presentation as well. So Phase 4. After the site preparation
you’re in the planting phase. And depending on how you
do the site preparation, it may take you a
year, it may take you several years if you’re
using tools like herbicides. If you’re using solarization,
we can typically do that site preparation
process in just a few months over the summer. The planting process
itself is the direct follow on– and is a
fairly quick process, although it’s the process that
we all sort of look forward to when we are immersed in
a habitat rest restoration effort. There are multiple ways you
can establish wildflower seed. And I’ll talk about
transplants here in a moment. But if you are
creating or recreating an area using wildflower
and native grass seed, you can on small sites
simply hand scatter that, like you would be–
just like feeding chickens out of a bucket. We do this routinely
on sites that are under one acre in size. I think some of the basic things
we do to ensure success are, first, we will mix
the seed in a bucket with at least equal amount of an
inert carrier like sand or peat moss or rice hulls,
something simply to add extra volume
to that seed mix. That helps keep the different
sizes and shapes of seed held in more of an equal suspension. It also helps you see where you
are throwing or broadcasting that seed on the planting
area, because many wildflower seeds are very, very small. They’re difficult to see
once they’re on the soil. But if you add something
like sand or rice hulls on to that seed
mix, you can begin to immediately see where
it’s falling on the ground and to understand if you’re
evenly distributing it across the planting area. When we’re hand scattering we’ll
usually divide that seed mix into two different
quantities, and we’ll usually seed the area walking in
two different perpendicular directions just to ensure that
we’re covering the entire area as evenly as possible. Now there are many
ways to seed areas using much larger equipment. You can see here in the lower
right-hand photo my colleague, Jessa Guisse, in
California driving the specialized native seed
drill on this larger planting site. There are these tools
out there, and there are tools that are sort of
in between in size from hand broadcasting with a bucket. In the sort of middle of
these different extremes you can find tools like
belly grinder seeders, you can find ATV-mounted
broadcast seeders. I think if you are using
any type of equipment, it’s important to have some
training on that equipment and to know how to calibrate
that equipment so that you’re broadcasting the seed equally
over the entire planting area. And finally, just
a few thoughts here on seeding rates and timing. So for seeding
rates, we’re usually seeding sites at a rate of 40
to 60 seeds per square foot. That Xerces Seed Mix Calculator,
which I mentioned earlier and I’ll direct
you to later, can help you figure out
exactly how much seed you need based upon
your planting area to meet that
seeding rate target. And then finally, we
recommend dormant seedings wherever possible, so seeding
during the dormant season. If you’re in a cold
climate that may be late fall or early winter. In California,
for example, we’re oftentimes seeding
very late in the year around November or December to
take advantage of winter rain. If you’re working with
transplants– and transplants are a great way to
restore habitat– you get a much faster start
to the growth of your plants. You can oftentimes
have flowering plants in the ground the first
year of the planting phase of your project. Transplants are perfectly
appropriate for that. The downsides of transplants
are that they are expensive, and it’s hard to cover
really, really large areas, like multiple acres of habitat,
with transplants alone. But if you are
using transplants, some simple things to think
about include a decision on whether or not you
want to use the weed barriers, whether
or not one animal guards to protect from
gophers or deer or rabbits from eating your newly
planted transplants. Important to mulch
your new transplants and to irrigate them
immediately at planting. Usually, in terms of
longer range management, we cut off all of the
irrigation to the transplants we use after about
two years of planting. And that includes even those
plantings in dry climates like really arid
parts of California. Drip irrigation systems and
other precision irrigation technology is really, really
valuable for conserving water and for keeping these newly
transplanted native trees and shrubs and forests alive. So finally here, Phase 5 is the
long-term habitat management phase. And we could spend
perhaps a week of webinars long-term
habitat management and still, perhaps, only
scratch the surface. But a few things to think
about are these ideas of weed management in
your restored areas and the need to maintain
plant diversity in especially meadows or
prairie-type planting. In terms of weed management,
one of the simple strategies that we use, and most
prairie restorationists use, is to mow perennial meadows very
often in the first two years after planting. So typically, if
you’re planting, say, a prairie in
Iowa or Minnesota, it’s not uncommon to see your
non-native annual weeds grow really, really aggressively in
the first year after planting. We will go in and typically
mow those sites multiple times during the first two years
to prevent those annual weeds from producing seed. The lower growing,
slower growing perennials can tolerate that mowing
those first few years, and they actually benefit
from having more access to sunlight and less
competition for resources. So they can tolerate a
little bit of mowing, and that mowing helps them begin
to slowly grow and overtake the annuals, which will
eventually disappear from the planting site. You can also manage
weeds, of course, with hand weeding
on small sites. Some people use spot
spraying to control weeds. There’s lots of different
ways to go about it. But it is important, as part
of your initial planning phase, to think about this
weed management issue and to be realistic
about what you can do and how you’re going to do it. And then, of course, you want
to maintain plant diversity in your meadows over time,
or in your prairie plantings over time. One of the way to do
that is to introduce intermittent disturbance
to the site, such as going in and lightly raking
meadows or prairie planting, or to lightly disk
them every few years, and then to overfeed them with
additional wildflower seed to re-stimulate some
additional plant growth and some additional
diversity in that site. So I’m going to wrap up this
part of the presentation with just some examples,
real world examples, of this type of
restoration work. So here’s an example of a
flowering, a wildflower field border on a farm here in
Oregon, Headwaters Farm out near Troutdale, Oregon. So this is an
organic farm, so we wanted to create a
wildflower strip for them using fully organic methods. We first went through and
cultivated this seed bed. And, again cultivation
is something that will bring up
dormant weed seed and potentially stimulate
new weed growth. But in this case, after
cultivating that seed bed and smoothing it out, we laid
down this solarization plastic over the top. We did this in June. We left it on for
June, July, and August. In the lower
left-hand corner you can see us removing that
plastic in the fall. And again, we roll that
plastic up and we reuse it, and we reuse it for years
and years and years. So I guess it is sort of a
renewable tool in our arsenal for creating habitat. So immediately after removing
that plastic, we went back in, we seeded the area, we
hung a sign in the area. And I’ll walk you through
each of these steps. So here we are in May of 2013
with our newly cultivated strip. June of 2013 we installed
this solarization plastic. Again, we left this on for
June, July, and August. September or October
this came off. We immediately went in
and overseeded this area after the plastic was removed. And here we are one
year later, May 2014, with the initial wildflower
germination already taking place. And this site, because
of that solarization, is almost completely weed-free
during this initial planting phase. There’s almost no
dormant weed seed in this strip for these
wildflowers to compete with. So here we are in May, 2014. Here we are July, 2014
with this field of clarkia now in full bloom at
the peak of summer. So this is a very short
timeline that solarization allows us to create
habitat like this with. We removed that plastic
and we have it now on a different area of the farm. We are creating this
whole patchwork system of wildflower strips
on this farm that include more than a dozen
species of Oregon natives including showy milkweed. Here’s another example–
a different example, and another example of a
habitat restoration process. This one’s in California. This is a roadside
that we wanted to restore for
bumblebees and monarch butterflies, hummingbirds. Here you can see what
the roadside initially looked like, a highly disturbed
agricultural roadside. The landowner had used
herbicide and cultivation to keep the weeds down. It was dusty. It was not very
pleasant to look at. So we went through, we added
irrigation, an irrigation line, to this mile-long roadside. We dug holes, we planted
native shrubs into these holes. And this is what it looks like
a year later, in June of 2013. You can see there are
already flowers blooming in this hedgerow. Incredible species
in this hedgerow, things like California
fuchsia, various lupin, salvias, elderberries,
milkweed, ephedra. Here we are summer of last year. Look at the size
of that milkweed. Extremely rapid
growth just following these basic principles of good
planning, site preparation, irrigating your transplants,
and controlling weeds with hand weeding and
mulching around the plants. So very functional,
very attractive roadside feature on a fairly
short timeline. And I should mention
that California is in the midst of this
epic draught right now, and these plants are all
coming off irrigation. The irrigation is
being removed and these are drought-resistant,
native, adaptive plants that are continuing to
thrive on that site. I’m going to go through
a few more examples here, and then we’ll break
for some questions. But here’s an example
of a similar, a dairy farm in Wisconsin, a
non-native, cool season pasture restored to native habitat
for the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Here’s an example of one
of our pollinator meadows that we’ve developed
in California. An example of an urban
meadow here in Portland, Oregon, the
replacement of a lawn, a lawn that requires
regular irrigation throughout the summer, a lawn
that requires regular mowing with a mix of
wildflowers that require very little annual maintenance. An example of a field
border in Massachusetts on a cranberry farm,
which is a weedy field border that we removed the
existing vegetation from. We hydro-seeded, in
this case, and you can see the green hydro-seeding
mulch on the inset photo. So we hydro-seeded the site
because it was on a slope and we didn’t want
the seed to wash away. And this was the
result afterwards. Here’s an example of
a rangeland planting that we developed in California. So we can integrate
wildflower even into agricultural lands
that are used for grazing, are used for livestock. An example of a native prairie
front yard in Wisconsin. Again, replacing
irrigation-dependent turf grass, and turf
grass that requires mowing with native species. An example of a
bioswale here in Oregon. These are parking
strip plantings that absorb surface
runoff from the streets and filter that surface
runoff before it makes its way into the storm sewer. So it’s the root systems
and stems of native plants, in this case showy
milkweed and sedges and other plants that are
filtering that runoff water. I’m going to wrap up here
with a few thoughts on Project Milkweed and just direct you
to some additional resources. And I don’t have very
many slides here. These are slides that we can get
through in about five minutes or so. But we are at about five
minutes to the hour here, and I thought, Wendy, we
should maybe break here, and are there one
or two questions that we should take
right now, and then we can take more
questions after I get through the remainder
of the slides here. Yeah. I’ve been highlighting
quite a few questions here. There was a lot of
interest in solarization and expanding more on that. For example, how
large of an area can you prepare
using this method, and how long does it take? Which season is best to begin? Questions like that. So could you expand
a little more on solarization techniques? Sure. So the solarization, again, we
use UV-stabilized greenhouse plastic. And it comes in
standard widths, and I think the upper
limit of those widths is it usually around
36 or 48 feet wide. And you can have these
custom-cut to various length, so you can easily buy a length
of this plastic that may be 200 feet long by 36 feet wide. So you’re constrained
a little bit by the standard commercial
sizes of these different sheets of plastic. But you can place these
next to each other to solarize larger
and larger areas. I’ll direct you to a guide to
the solarization process here coming up in a couple of
moments that can give you some more specific details. But in terms of
timing and timeline, again, this is usually
done in the summer months. We usually lay the
plastic in June and then remove it in
September or early October depending on where you are. So it’s a very short process. Do we have another question? Sure. There was a little bit of
interest in planting pollinator plants along roadsides. What’s your take on insects
killed by vehicles, or road salt even? Yeah The road salt
one is not something that I know very much about. And I know that there is
a little bit of research out there on the impact of
salt, at least on native plants, if not on the
insects themselves. I don’t think I
can speak to that. But I can speak to the
issue of car collision. And the little bit
that I know– and I should mention that my
colleague, Jennifer Hopwood, here at the Xerces Society
has a wonderful fact sheet on our website about
roadsides and pollinators. But her review of
the research seemed to indicate that planting
native vegetation, wildflower-rich
vegetation, along roadsides actually reduced butterfly
collisions with cars because the added
richness of that habitat adjacent to roadsides
actually kept the butterflies in those areas foraging and
collecting nectar rather than having them move across
the roadside as frequently in search of other flowers. So I think that’s sort of
the state of the research, that roadside planting actually
reduced butterfly mortality. And if we could,
why don’t I just wrap up here with the
remainder of our slides and some additional resources. We are at the top
of the hour here. And I realize we got a little
bit of a slow start here, and Wendy and I are committed to
staying on here until half past the hour just to take
additional questions for folks who can stay with us. But I will wrap up here quickly. And I just want to
highlight, finally, here, this project that we’ve been
incubating at the Xerces Society for a number of years
called Project Milkweed that has worked with the
USDA’s Natural resources Conservation Service and
the private seed industry to try to bring additional
sources of milkweed seed to market in parts
of the country where it’s not widely
available, so places like Texas, California,
Florida, the Great Basin. These are regions
where historically it’s been really challenging
to find widely available commercial
sources of milkweed seed. So we’ve been working
with seed growers in these respective regions
to go out and wild collect foundation seed, and then to
amplify that seed in a nursery or farm setting, and
then to make that seed available to the public. This has been really
successful for us. We have produced jointly
with these partners over 35 million
seeds, and I think that number’s vastly out
of date at this point. But we’ve really,
through this project, made 10 previously
unavailable species of milkweed now available in
the nursery trade in at least 10 states. And I’ll show you where you can
access some of that seed now. And as part of
this process, we’ve developed this comprehensive
guide to milkweed conservation. I have a copy of it
here in front of me, so I’m going to do
a quick page count. This is basically
a 150-page guide on the ecology and conservation
propagation of milkweeds, for those of you
who are interested. This is available as a free
download on our website, has extensive sections
on the relationships of milkweeds with
specialist insects that feed upon milkweeds. It’s got information
on planting techniques that maximize your chances
of success with milkweed. It has case studies of milkweeds
used in roadside habitat projects, et cetera. So I would encourage
you to check that out. And if you’re interested in
the milkweed seed itself, whether it’s the seed
that we’ve helped bring to market through
Project Milkweed or whether it’s seed
that may already have been available through
native speed companies in your region,
I would encourage you to check out the Milkweed
Seed Finder on our website. This is an online
database of all of the commercially available
milkweed seed sources that we know of. You can go on the website,
you can select your state, you can also select
different species of milkweed that you might be looking
for or interested in. And it’s a tool coming out of
this Project Milkweed process to help link you to
the raw materials to do the conservation work. Also on our website
we have, again, the Seed Mix Calculator
to help you formulate seed mixes for your
specific projects. We have different
installation guides for habitat types in different
parts of the country, whether it’s a meadow or prairie
habitat in the upper Midwest or hedgerows in California. You can download region-specific
habitat installation guides on our website. Most of these resources can
be found within the Pollinator Conservation Resource
Center, which is simply at
xerces.org backslash pollinator-resource-center. You can find directories
of native plants, nurseries in your region. You can find information
on pesticide risk reduction guidelines. You can find information
about other pollinators such as native bees
on the site as well. You can also find
more information through our book, Attracting
Native Pollinators. And if you’re interested
in this concept that I talked about earlier
of using good bugs to prey upon bad bugs as an
alternative to pesticides, I would encourage you to check
out our new book, Farming with Native Beneficial Insects. This Is available from
any major book dealer, and it includes more of
the research findings from this joint Xerces-UC
Berkeley project. And it includes some
amazing case studies from all across
the United States. And then finally here, in
terms of additional resources, if you are interested in
direct habitat restoration support yourself–
whether it is simply project planning or an actual
turnkey sort of support system to help you plant wildflowers
and pick wildflowers and remove the initial invasive
plant community and replace it with something
that looks more like this– I would encourage you
to reach out to us. If you are a farmer and you’re
eligible for USDA programs, we can sometimes provide
that support at low cost or, in some cases, no cost
through leveraging programs from the USDA’ Natural
Resources Conservation Service. But we work with a lot
of different agencies and organizations, so I would
encourage you to reach out if you are looking for support
in making your landscape look like this one on the screen. So finally here,
my final thought are probably best summarized
by Dr. Edith Patch, who was first female president
of the Entomological Society of America,
who way back in 1938 made this really amazing
prediction that by the year 2000, the president
of the United States would issue a
proclamation claiming that land areas at regular
intervals throughout the US would be maintained
as insect gardens under the direction of
government entomologists. These would be planted
with milkweed, hawthorn, and other plants that
could sustain populations of bees and butterflies. And she predicted that at
some point in the future, entomologists will be as
much or more concerned with the conservation
and preservation of beneficial insect
life as they are now with the destruction
of injurious insects. And we’re a little bit
past the year 2000, but I think this is coming true. And I think coming true
through the efforts of all of the great agency folks who
tuned in today to learn more about this and who are
taking these concepts back to their work and implementing
them on the ground. And I think this is coming
true through the efforts of every one of
you, whether you are a gardener or a
roadside manager, all of you who are interested
in this, excited about this, and who are working to
create monarch and pollinator habitat in your own
communities are really bringing this vision to life. So thank you guys
for your efforts. I am going to stick around
here and take any questions that folks might have. Sorry for the lag. I’m going to jump in and
just, for those of you still on the line that need to go,
thank you all for being here today. And thank you, Eric
and the Xerces Society for providing this
wonderful resource. Thanks to the Fish
and Wildlife Service, the National Conservation
Training Center, and the Monarch Joint
Venture for making this webinar series possible. I hope that you’ll all join
us for the next webinar in the series. I don’t have a date set
for the next webinar, but we’re making
plans to hopefully have a webinar in March. Keep an eye out on our website,
monarchjointventure.org for updated information. And we’ll also
distribute an email. We’re interested in hearing
your thoughts following up on the webinar, and
any ideas that you have about monarch-related topics. So we’re going to distribute
a short survey by email after the webinar to allow you
to share your thoughts with us. So with that, we have quite a
few more questions coming in. So Eric and I are going
to stay on and try to answer as many as possible. Within a few weeks we’ll
try to gather together some informational resources
and answers to your questions that we’ll distribute by
email or through our website. So thank you all again for
participating in the Monarch Conservation Webinar Series. And we’ll move to
some questions. And I have to ask the questions. I’m going to scroll back to
the top of my multiple pages of questions here. There were some
questions about mowing. So do you have
recommendations for heights that you should mow at,
how often, should you mow everything,
is that different between site
installation and site management, things like that. So mowing is a tool
that we typically use after establishing
a new prairie or a new perennial meadow, a
meadow consisting of primarily perennial plants, perennial
forbs or perennial wildflowers and native perennial grasses. It’s a tool that we
usually only use routinely for the first couple of
years after planting. So if we were to seed a new
prairie area in the fall, then usually the following
spring we would come back and we would mow
it as soon as there were any annual weeds that were
beginning to produce flowers. And so we would mow them
to prevent those flowers from maturing and
producing seed. And then we would go back
perhaps four weeks later, perhaps six weeks
later, and we would do that throughout
the growing season, again, mowing just
enough to prevent most of those of those annual
weeds from producing seed. And we might do that
throughout that entire year after seeding an area
the previous fall. And then we may go back
even the second year and do it again if there’s
still a lot of annual or if there are some biennial
weeds that are showing up in that planting site. And then usually in
sort of the third year, we will cease that entirely and
let that prairie or that meadow begin to completely
take off and let those wildflowers grow
to their full potential and begin flowering. There is this
rhyme or this idiom that’s sometimes in prairie
restoration that kind of refers to this process. And it goes something
like, the first year after planting the
prairie sleeps, the second year it creeps,
and the third year it leaps. And that’s pretty typical. So usually we
don’t expect to see a lot of wildflowers the first
year or second year anyway. So that mowing phase is a
short part of the process. And after that it may be
something that we only do once a year or once every
other year simply to remove some of the
tall dead vegetation and create more
light for the plants that are now
established to take off. All right. Does solarization
kill soil microbes and beneficial invertebrates? Very likely, yes. And this is something that
we were really concerned about initially. I was really about it. And I come from a
background in horticulture and have spent a lot
of my career thinking about soils and soil health. And it was really
concerning to me initially when we started
doing it, thinking about exactly that, that we
may be killing off beneficials and may be killing off
beneficial microbial communities. But especially having
worked now more in the west, and having, I think, greater
exposure to the scientists who think that soil microbial
communities have a role in facilitating
non-native plants and plant invasion, I think that those
potential risks are outweighed by the possibility that
solarization innovation is killing off soil
microbes, soil fungi, soil bacteria that may have
symbiotic relationships with the non-native, the
dominant non-native vegetation. And so by solarizing it and
removing that soil microbial community, we create
more of a clean slate for the establishment of our
more desirable native plants for Pollinator Habitat Project. There’s some speculation
that it may even be worth inoculating these
restored areas, the soil in these
restored areas, with soil from remnant high
quality plant communities. And I have not tested this, I
have not seen lot of science around this, but I think
it’s an interesting idea and worthy of additional
research and exploration. Great. Could you tell us a little bit
more about if and whether–what your thoughts are on the role
of forests as monarch habitats? The role of forests,
I think, is variable, as our forests are variable. And you know, a doug fir
forest in the Pacific Northwest is a very different
sort of ecosystem and very different community
of plants and animals than, say, a longleaf pine
forest in the southeast. So it’s hard for me to provide
an overarching statement to the value of forests. Forests have value in their
own right and in their own way. Monarchs, like most
butterflies, tend to be more common in
open, sunny habitats like prairies and
meadows and grasslands. And I think the value
of forests to them is probably most apparent as
their overwintering sites. And within the continental US,
I think the other value of them is simply in those
forests that can provide some understory plants,
whether they’re milkweeds or whether they’re nectar
plants that monarchs really depend upon. Great. We’ve had quite a few questions
on prescribed fire or burning. Do you have thoughts on this
as a management practice to establish or maintain
habitat for monarchs? Is it harmful to pollinators? What are the advantages? Yeah. So with fire, there’s very–
there are some very strong opinions out there
about the value of fire for prairie or
grassland restoration. And I think that the growing
consensus is that it really requires sort of
site-specific consideration and species-specific
consideration. So there are, we know,
some prairie communities and some butterfly specialists
of those prairie community that really seem to suffer
from the effects of fire. Monarchs are probably
not one of those species. Monarchs are typically
not in those systems at the time of year when most
prescribed burning takes place and may benefit overall
from the use of fire as a maintenance tool or
management tool for prairies and grasslands. But it’s important that we
look at the other insects in those landscapes
as well and make sure that we’re not recommending
fire where there may be sensitive species
or site specialists that could be harmed by fire. OK. Coming back to the
mowing question, someone pointed out that
we didn’t establish, is there a recommended height
for mowing for pollinators, to reduce impact on pollinators? The mowing height is– there
are no firm guidelines for it. You really want to
mow as high as you can mow with the
expectation that you want to cut off the flowers of
any annual or biennial weeds. But you don’t want to
mow so low to the ground that you’re basically scalping
the crowns of the more desirable vegetation that may
just be getting established. So generally as high as your
mower can safely operate and still effectively
cut off most of the flowers of your weed. And as sort of a side example of
this, when I lived in Wisconsin and noticed a committed group of
people around the Madison area who were really
interested in managing native prairies in their yards
and in their home landscapes, it was not uncommon
to see folks who had just a regular yard,
residential yard push mower. And they would take
the wheels off it and replace them
with taller wheels to be able to mow their
prairie occasionally. So there are these
sort of creative ways of getting your mower
to that optimal height. OK. We’ve still got quite a
few people on the line, so I’ll come at you with
a few more questions here. Does the seed calculator
allow for variances depending on site
conditions, for example, starting from a bare
field versus a field with 70% covered soil? It does not. Really what you would do is you
would decide, going into it, whether or not you want to
seed the area really, really heavily at a rate of, say, 60
or 70 seeds per square foot, which you may feel like you need
to do if you’ve got not very good conditions for
seed establishment, or questionable
site preparation. You may want to ensure
that as your initial value. If you feel like your site
condition is very good, if you feel like your planting
technology is very good, you may want to dial
that back and set your initial seeding rate
target at about 40 seeds per square foot. So you can control that based
upon your own assessment of your site conditions
and your planting process. Do you have that conversion? Do you have it converted
to pounds per acre? You recommended 40
seeds per square foot. Do you have that
conversion, by chance? Yeah. I don’t, but the
calculator does that. There is no standard conversion. It’s based upon the species
that you add to the calculator. So different plants species
have different numbers of seed by weight,
and consequently the overall pounds
per acre changes depending upon the
species and depending upon the seeding rate. The calculator
does that for you. OK. And I apologize if you’ve
covered this already, but do you have
a preferred ratio of grasses to forbs
for the seed mix when you’re looking to
install pollinator habitat? Yeah. That ratio changes a
little bit depending upon the region of the country. Generally we do at
least 25% grasses to our seed mixes, and
usually less than 50%. So somewhere in that
25-50% percent range seems to be kind of
a sweet spot for us. OK. For a site that is in sod, what
site prep would you recommend? They’re in Vermont and do not
anticipate heavy weed pressure. Would killing and
seeding be appropriate? I think with sod,
the weed pressure could still be really,
really significant. And the sod itself, having
a rhizomatous grass, simply cultivating
that is probably not going to kill the
grass entirely. You could do really, really
deep moldboard plowing and actually invert
the upper soil profile and bury that sod grass. So a moldboard
plow would sort of pick it up and flip
it over and bury it. And you can plant on that
and have relatively weed-free conditions. You could rent a sod cutter
from a local hardware store and use that to
physically remove the sod and then plant over
the soil, and probably have pretty good success. And then solarization,
again, is something that we’ve had really
good success with, even at northern climates and in
cold climates like New England. OK. I think this might be a good
opportunity to wrap things up. There’s still quite
a few questions that I know we didn’t get to. But we’re going to try to
pull together some resources and follow up by email. And Eric, I will rely
on you to help me with that, if you’re up for it. Absolutely, yeah. But thank you to the 329
viewers that are still with us. But we are going
to wrap things up.

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