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January 11, 2013

Community

Program monitors success of mechanical re-vegetation practices

It was a cool fall day at Fort McCoy when Range and Training Lands Assessment (RLTA) coordinator Susan Vos packed her gear and headed for the field. Vos is a contracted employee for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort McCoy.
PHOTO: A view of Firing Point 402 at Fort McCoy in 2009. Photo by Susan Vos

PHOTO: A view of Firing Point 402 at Fort McCoy in 2010. Photo by Susan Vos
A view of Firing Point 402 at Fort McCoy during the 2009 warm-season grass planting (top) and during the second growing season at Fort McCoy in 2010 (bottom).
(Photos by Susan Vos)

The fall season is a good time to assess areas that have been re-planted. Native grasses, in particular, show off some of their best traits during this time, making identification easier. Vos took advantage of the opportunity to observe the many parcels that have been re-planted by the Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) program.

A landscape that offers a stable training arena is critical to support training Soldiers. The LRAM program is responsible for maintaining realistic and sustainable lands. Military training scenarios have the potential to disturb vegetation and soil resources.

To limit the long-term effects of training disturbance, the LRAM program uses a variety of techniques to rehabilitate and stabilize areas exhausted by concentrated training or areas impacted by new intense training. To support the LRAM program, Vos has developed an assessment program to collect information on the condition of soil and vegetation resources after rehabilitation. The objective of the research is to re-evaluate survey results and summarize the overall findings in the context of soil structure and soil chemistry data that was collected in the study sites.

To conduct the study, Vos travels to the re-planted parcel. Using maps and a GPS unit, she delineates the parcel boundaries, and navigates through each parcel measuring the frequency of planted target species and ground-cover attributes. She does this by randomly placing her quadrat in the parcel and tediously looks for planted target species. She also studies each parcel and determines the stability of the vegetation inside and outside of the planted parcel. It is important to identify each planted target species as well as other important native volunteer species that are growing within the parcel. This information reveals where the soil and vegetation is along the continuum of rehabilitation.

A solid vegetation cover of perennial grasses also ensures the training area is self-sustaining as vegetation debris breaks down to return nutrients and organic material to the soil for existing plant life.

A solid cover of perennial vegetation deters the invasion of noxious and invasive plant species as they threaten a native plant community and are not capable of holding the soil effectively.

Research results show that planted target warm season grasses appear to contribute to the overall vegetation cover in some planted parcels.

Disturbances (i.e. weather or training events) have the potential to slow down re-vegetation processes. In some heavily degraded areas, vegetation establishment will continue to be thwarted if soil structure and nutrients remain poor. Serious deficiencies in soil structure and nutrients appear to be the main cause for less successful native plantings.

The LRAM program currently is working with a variety of soil additives that can be worked into the soil that may replace some of the missing structure and nutrients in high use areas. The RTLA program plans on assessing the effectiveness of these additives to help determine best management practices.

(Submitted by Susan M. Vos, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Range Training Lands Assessment Coordinator.)

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