The Pomme de Terre River watershed area in west central Minnesota was once a sprawling prairie, home to beneficial pollinator species and prairie vegetation. Now, however, we’ve seen a devastating decline of beneficial pollinator species and a disruption to the remaining native prairie ecosystem. The lack of diversity or availability of pollen and nectar sources can cause certain pollinator populations to develop health disorders and ultimately die off.
Beginning in the fall of 2018 and continuing through 2022, the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) will begin restoring a 17-acre portion of grassland along the City of Morris bike path to a native prairie habitat with the hopes of restoring the area so beneficial pollinators can flourish. (Project site identified by white outline.)
The restoration site will also be utilized as an outdoor classroom for local high school students as well as undergraduate students for pollinator education and learning experiences with bee keeping and pollinator habitats. Visitors along the walk and bike trail will have several opportunities to connect and interact with the native prairie. As part of the restoration, wayside rest areas with interpretive kiosks will be placed throughout the 17-acres, offering information on the importance of beneficial pollinators and how to make their own landscapes more pollinator-friendly.
The first step in this process is to remove all non-native vegetation. The current project site, which is located to the south of the Pomme de Terre Overlook, is host to a very large area of non-native vegetation, making pollen and nectar sources extremely limited. Secondly, once the non-native vegetation is removed, we can begin to introduce a diverse selection of native grasses and forbs to the site. Providing a diverse habitat with abundant nectar and pollen sources is arguable the most effective method of enhancing or protecting a local beneficial pollinator population.
Finally, roughly fifty Bur Oak trees native to prairie savannah ecosystems will be planted throughout the project site. This will add to the historic prairie savannah landscape and may also help sustain various species of wildlife. Over the course of the three year restoration, we will have created an improved landscape that supports bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators, as well as enhanced the local prairie ecosystem.
Visitors along the walk and bike trail will have several opportunities to connect and interact with the native prairie. As part of the restoration, wayside rest areas with interpretive kiosks will be placed throughout the 17-acres, offering information on the importance of beneficial pollinators and how to make their own landscapes more pollinator-friendly.
In addition, an interactive activity will be developed by a computer science team at the University of Minnesota Morris as a way to offer digital visualization for what it’s like to “Be a Bee.” The restoration site will also be utilized as an outdoor classroom for local high school students for pollinator education and learning experiences with bee keeping and pollinator habitats.
Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Trust Fund is a constitutionally-established permanent fund for protecting and enhancing Minnesota’s environment and natural resources. View the proposal. (.pdf)
Follow along with our progress!
Removal of non-native vegetation began in mid-November 2018. Using large machinery, all non-native trees and shrubs were removed in order to prep the site for native plantings. In September 2020, 50 Bur oak trees were planted to create an Oak Savannah. Two wayside rest areas, and dormant native prairie seeding took place in the fall of 2020. We continue to maintain the site with aggressive weed control strategies until the native plants are well established.
As we head into 2022, we look forward to launching interactive educational components relating to the project. “Buzz About” is a participatory simulation where participants select a pollinator and must choose which native plants to visit in order to obtain food. This program can be accessed via a smartphone or device while on the trail, in the classroom, or from home.