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Old 04-27-2012, 05:02 PM   #1
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Default Oak Savanna , a tallgrass prairie plant community

Oak Savannas : characteristics, restoration and long-term management

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The oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest but is today highly endangered. Intact oak savannas are now one of the rarest plant communities on earth. However, many degraded oak savannas still remain and can be restored. The detailed information in this web site shows the way.
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This web site deals exclusively with Midwestern oak savannas, of which many restorable sites exist. Oak savannas in the Midwest are most commonly found in a climatic zone intermediate between woodland and prairie, which is often called the prairie/forest border.
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A landscape is a mosaic of vegetation types, with sizes varying with the topography and other characteristics of the land. The term “oak savanna landscape” refers to a natural area or a complex of natural areas with a wide diversity of species. The dominant trees of the oak savanna are several major species of oaks. Within and among this oak tree canopy are numerous smaller trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs.

Thus, although the oaks are the most obvious plants, we must keep in mind the high diversity that is present. This diversity is important in the changes that take place in the landscape with time. Gradual climate change, year-to-year variation in weather, and external disturbance (logging, disease, wind, etc.) may lead to the elimination of individual trees or even wide swaths of the forest, but in a diverse natural area, other individuals usually move in and fill the gaps.


The openness of the oak savanna is usually maintained by fire, and of the major tree species in the Midwest the oaks are uniquely fire resistant. Over time, these scattered oaks develop into large trees and each open-grown tree receives maximum sunlight and there is little competition between individuals. Oak savannas generally develop in drier areas, on south- or southwest-facing slopes or other areas where many other tree species are unable to compete.

The open nature of the oak savanna results in the establishment of numerous kinds of prairie plants, both grasses and forbs.
If the tree canopy is very sparse, the vegetation will be more prairie-like than woodland-like.
On the other hand, when the tree canopy approaches 50%, prairie plants will not grow as well but many woodland plants will thrive. Because of the scattered nature of the oaks, some parts of an individual savanna will be very open and other parts more closed

In addition to the prairie-like and woodland-like herbaceous plants, there is a third category, the savanna specialists, that grow best at intermediate light intensities. Thus, the diversity of plants in an oak savanna is higher than either a prairie or woodland, because it has species representing all three categories of plants: prairie plants, savanna plants, and woodland plants.
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Old 04-27-2012, 05:15 PM   #2
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Recognition of Restorable Oak Savannas

Amazon.com: Miracle Under the Oaks: The Revival of Nature in America (9780671780456): William K. Stevens, Myra Klockenbrink, Patricia J. Wynne: Books

Stevens, William K. 1995. Miracle Under the Oaks: the revival of nature in America. New York. Pocket Books

Leach, Mark K. and Givnish, Thomas J. 1999. Gradients in the composition, structure, and diversity of remnant oak savannas in southern Wisconsin. Ecological Mongraphs 69: 353-374..

Leach, Mark K. and Givnish, Thomas J. 1988. Identifying highly restorable savanna remnants. Transactions Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Vol. 86, pp. 119-128.
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Old 04-27-2012, 05:27 PM   #3
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Great Lakes Ecosystems...

Great Lakes Ecosystem: 1994 Proceedings of the Midwest Oak Savanna Conferences

WHY SAVANNA CLASSIFICATION MATTERS:THE IMPLICATIONS FOR LAND MANAGEMENT PLANNING,REVIEW AND IMPLEMENTATION
Randy R. Heidorn
Stewardship Coordinator
Illinois Nature Preserves Commission

Great Lakes Ecosystem: 1994 Proceedings of the Midwest Oak Savanna Conferences [Heidorn]
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Old 04-27-2012, 05:43 PM   #4
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Illinois prairie plant communities ...
Chicago Botanic Garden

These six separate prairies represent the different types of native prairies once common to northeastern Illinois, each with its own topography, soil conditions, and native plant species.

Rich black earth and plants that soar taller than 8 feet are characteristic of the tallgrass or mesic prairie that once dominated Illinois.
The bur oak savanna is an open grassland prairie that incorporates clusters of native bur oak trees and the flowering plants growing around them.
The sand prairie is a re-creation of the type of prairie found naturally at the southwestern end of Lake Michigan, where the shoreline encompasses low dunes with a marshy habitat sited between them. The interesting plant varieties found here reflect the dual nature of the environment.
The steep, sloped gravel hill prairie is a dry, exceptionally well-drained area with slightly sandy or gravelly soil. Plants found here are lower to the ground and flower earlier than tallgrass varieties.
In contrast to the others, the wet prairie is located close to the water’s edge and contains plants well suited to a marsh setting.
The fen prairie is a re-creation of an unusual wetland where the water contains a high degree of mineral salts leached from underground limestone.
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Old 04-27-2012, 06:17 PM   #5
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I think my house is smack dab in the middle of an oak savanna. Here's some pictures with our mature (HUGE!) oaks, and open areas along our woodland property. The area attracts a lot of wildlife, especially deer, black bear, and wild turkey.

I had no idea there was a label for this type of land. Thanks for the links about oak savannas.

I'm hoping to add more native plants to the "meadow" areas.

Oak Savanna , a tallgrass prairie plant community-img_2310.jpg Oak Savanna , a tallgrass prairie plant community-img_2318.jpg Oak Savanna , a tallgrass prairie plant community-img_2319.jpg Oak Savanna , a tallgrass prairie plant community-img_2321.jpg Oak Savanna , a tallgrass prairie plant community-img_2658.jpg
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Old 04-27-2012, 08:06 PM   #6
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BooBooBearBecky, I love your pictures of the bears!

We are in the Oak Savanna area with Bur Oak being the predominant species. The native plants around here are Big Bluestem and Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, Monarda fistula, Verbena hastata, Helianthus species, among others. The predominant wildlife are Wild Turkey, Deer, Coyotes. I am not aware of any bears in our area. Aren't bear primarily a woodland species?
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:11 PM   #7
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Aren't bear primarily a woodland species?
Yes, black bears are primarily woodland dwellers, but they love those tender greens, emerging large leaved aster, and acorns from the previous autumn crop available in the "oak savanna" areas. The open areas green up earlier than the dense and shaded woodlands in spring and early summer.

The wild blackberries along the woodland edge attract the bears in early autumn. One summer I counted 14 different black bears feasting on the blackberries and mapleleaf viburnum. It was a busy bear day!
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Old 04-27-2012, 11:35 PM   #8
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Geography of Oak Savannas
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Old 04-28-2012, 06:21 AM   #9
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So many beautiful ecosystems, so little time...
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Old 04-28-2012, 10:52 AM   #10
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Gloria....thanks for posting that wonderful link about Oak Savannas. It's like a management how-to for my property!! So Cool!!!

I was totally unaware that I lved in an Oak Savanna!!! Or that there was a classification for this type of ecosystem.

I found this fact fascinating...
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Can an oak savanna be established “from scratch”? That is, with neither the open-grown oaks nor the understory vegetation present? From bare ground? The answer is NO.

Why? Planting oaks is a meritorious undertaking, but one does not plant oaks for oneself, but for future generations. The ages of open-grown oaks in functioning savannas will be most likely over 100 years old, with some trees approaching 200 years in age.

Without the presence of open-grown oaks, restoring an oak savanna is not possible.
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