UWA recognized for restoration project

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 2, 2005

Contributed Report

LIVINGSTON, Ala.-The National Wildlife Federation, the nation’s leading conservation education and advocacy group, announced this week the University of West Alabama received the esteemed Campus Ecology Recognition for its Blackland Prairie Restoration project. Of the 56 case studies from more than 40 higher education institutions in the United States and Canada included in the 2004-2005 edition of the Campus Ecology Yearbook, NWF granted this honor to only 12 of the colleges and universities for setting and achieving especially ambitious conservation goals.

“This is quite a distinction for our university,” said UWA President Richard Holland. “It is wonderful to be recognized for the efforts of the dedicated volunteers working to restore the prairie here on our campus.”

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UWA’s project started as a graduate project for one student last year, but it has evolved into a combined effort of student, faculty and staff volunteers using controlled burn techniques to rid 17 acres of prairie of evasive shrubs and agricultural grasses. Although prairie land stretched across East Mississippi and West Alabama, it is estimated that less than 1 percent of the original prairie still remains. UWA is working to change that.

“With the burning and the introduction of locally collected and purchased seed for native plants, we are seeing results,” said Robby Limerick, UWA Lake and Prairie Manager.



With support from the Alabama Wildflower Society, the Sumter County Nature Trust and UWA, the project, led by Dr. Doug Wymer and Limerick, purchased the seed needed for 10 study plots. The team increased species diversity and richness in the study plots by introducing the seeds and by controlling the exotic grasses, such as fescue and Johnson grass, with fire and herbicide.

“One point to remember in a restoration project is that you cannot undo in one growing season the changes in an ecosystem resulting from years or decades under a different management regime,” said Wymer, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science. “It is an ongoing process focused on increasing the integrity of the damaged systems and education.”

UWA volunteers plan to continue their work restoring the prairie on campus, especially as The Nature Conservancy of Alabama works towards establishing a Blackland Prairie Heritage area in west Alabama. The knowledge gained in the university’s efforts will be valuable for this restoration work as well.

UWA’s extensive network of nature trails, which includes access to the prairie restoration area, is open to the public.

Published each year since 1989, NWF’s Campus Ecology Yearbook is the only publication of its kind in the United States. NWF’s Campus Ecology program is currently working with more than 200 campuses on projects that address climate change and protect and restore wildlife and wildlife habitat. Campus Ecology provides project support, recognition, resources, speakers, campus-based fellowships and internships for graduates. For more information about the Campus Ecology program or to view the UWA Blackland Prairie Restoration project case study, please visit www.nwf.org/campusecology.