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Restoring Shale Glades at Middle Fork Barrens

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Monday, December 22, 2014

Middle ForkMiddle Fork Barrens supports two distinct types of shale glades — dry hillside glades and seasonally-wet flat glades containing intermittent seeps and pools. These unique communities support an array of habitat-specific flora and fauna. More than 10 species of rare plants have been documented in the Middle Fork Barrens glades, several of which are globally rare and endemic to the Ouachita Mountains.

Over time, several glades at Middle Fork Barrens became overrun with eastern red cedar due to decades of fire suppression, resulting in a dramatic change as cedar shaded out the understory (the plants underneath). Cedar is an opportunistic species that will out-compete other native vegetation when not controlled by natural ecosystem processes such as fire.

ANHC has been working to remove cedar from Middle Fork Barrens. The cedar trees are cut using chainsaws, then piled and burned on-site. Leaving a thicket of felled cedars on the natural area would create unwanted fire intensity due to cedar’s immense fuel load.

Removing cedar increases the amount of sunlight reaching the ground and promotes native grasses and forbs (flowering plants). Prescribed burns have helped increase the size and connectedness of glade openings and have further invigorated the herbaceous layer at Middle Fork Barrens.

Recently, staff from our Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) sister agencies helped ANHC staff remove invasive cedar from Middle Fork Barrens. Fourteen volunteers spent the day cutting down invasive cedar trees and were able to clear hundreds of small trees. As a thank you, they were given the opportunity to choose a tree (from those selected for removal) to take home for decoration.

DAH volunteers helped with cedars at Middle Fork Barrens.


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