May 1, 2018 – Kawartha Conservation staff will be launching two exciting habitat restoration projects in Durham East Cross Forest this spring that will help re-introduce an important tree species while also protecting two threatened bird species.
“Durham East Cross Forest really is a gem among our conservation areas,” said Director of Stewardship and Conservation Areas, Kristie Virgoe. “Undertaking these two critical projects is an important investment in this conservation area and for both the community and the environment.”
The first project is a Bobolink and Meadowlark grassland restoration project, and the second an important Butternut Tree planting project.
For the Bobolink and Meadowlark grassland restoration project, work will be commencing to remove a section of scattered trees from approximately one third of the 25-acre project area in the spring and summer. In August and September, the field will be mowed, followed by planting a native grassland mix that is suitable for grassland birds including Big Bluestem, Prairie Brome, Switchgrass and others.
The field has been filling in during the past number of years with invasive Scots Pine trees as well as native Aspen Trees.
“We are letting the grassland birds nest and fledge their young this summer before we mow the field and make it ready for planting,” said Ms. Virgoe. “In areas where the terrain is rougher, we will use an assortment of grass plugs (small grass plants) instead of seed to establish these plants.”
Ongoing maintenance will include an annual mowing regime, while staff also monitor the bird populations over time.
The second project will involve planting 20 Butternut saplings, along with 20 companion tree saplings.
“Butternut trees are endangered in Ontario because of the Butternut Canker, a disease that has almost wiped out the population,” explained Conservation Areas Technician Ben Teskey. “By planting more Butternut we are hoping to establish a healthy plot for the trees and to increase our chances of finding some resistance to the Canker.”
Teskey explained that Butternut are a tree that is often found in early successional areas (open fields).
“Durham East Cross Forest has wonderful habitat for these trees and this project will help to improve the biodiversity of the area, while helping to re-introduce this important endangered tree back into the watershed.”
The Butternut saplings have been DNA tested to ensure they are pure Butternut Trees and the seeds were collected from Butternut that have demonstrated resistance to the disease. The trees will be planted and protect from being browsed by deer and other wildlife.
“Planting will take place this spring with ongoing monitoring every week between planting and October to assess the health and vitality of the trees,” added Mr. Teskey.