On May 29th and 30th, 24 researchers and land managers attended the BLN Spring Meeting and Field Trip. In 2012 and 2013, the spring meeting was limited to managers where attendees discussed results of management and continuing challenges. This year, we decided to change things up a bit and head to the field to see some of the work our network members have engaged in, talk about the results, and discuss the applicability to other sites. We figured what better place to do this than the bogs in northeast Georgia.
For those that do not know, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR), The University of Georgia (UGA), Atlanta Botanical Garden, and Georgia Plant Conservation Alliances have developed a strong partnership over the past several years. This partnership has resulted in some really important restoration and management of Georgia’s remaining bogs and protection of rare species. The purpose of this trip was to look at some of these sites and gain an understanding of the history of management.
The first day of the meeting included some discussion of topics for next year’s meeting and introduction to the bogs of northeast Georgia. Thomas Floyd, Carrie Radcliffe-Brod, and Jennifer Ceska teamed to provide some great introductions to the restoration of the bogs. We then traveled out to Hale Ridge, a, swamp-forest bog complex where some stream restoration plans are in place where the University of Georgia Professors in Landscape Architecture, teach students about stream restoration. The amount of work that has gone into this place was pretty evident. Pitcher Plants were evident, as well as swamp pink (Helonias bullatta). The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, Georgia DNR, US Forest Service and Atlanta Botanical Garden have partnered to restore this complex to its native state.
The second day of the meeting, we drove out to Tom’s Swamp. We were lucky enough to be joined by two of Georgia’s pioneer bog managers. Tom Patrick, botanist from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Director, Ron Determan. When Tom’s Swamp was discovered in the 1950s it was one of only two places in Georgia where the purple mountain pitcher plant existed. However, it was largely unmanaged until the 1990s. By this time, the bog had largely succeeded into hardwood and was dominated by Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron. Tom and Ron were instrumental in salvaging plant material for propagation and reintroduction.
Habitat improvement through the hand removal of hardwoods has re-established the open nature of this bog. It was clear the immense amount of work that had gone into the forest. The response of the Pitcher Plants was pretty evident. And it was pretty clear that the herbaceous plant community that dominated this bog has been reestablished. In fact, the most significant problem they have is the native sedges outcompeting the pitcher plants.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is known for really getting a lot of burning done in relatively narrow windows. Much of what we now have in the fire-suppressed Southern Blue Ridge landscape includes a dense midstory comprised largely of rhododendron and mountain laurel. This mesic-oak hickory forest has now had two prescribed burns since, and the benefits to the herbaceous community and oak regeneration are pretty evident. It was also that an immense amount of work had gone into the removal of dense hardwood shrub layer and they had used the prescribed burns as an opportunity to consume much of this layer.
Also interesting to note was that largely because of the, this bog was virtually devoid of non-native invasive plants, owed to the tremendous work the aforementioned partners have put in.
Gary Peeples with the US Fish and Wildlife Service captured some fantastic photos like the ones above.
Georgia DNR wrote about it on their website.