Habitat fragmentation is frequently caused by humans when native vegetation is cleared for human activities such as agriculture, rural development, urbanization and the creation of hydroelectric reservoirs. Habitats which were once continuous become divided into separate fragments. After intensive clearing, the separate fragments tend to be very small islands isolated from each other by cropland, pasture, pavement, or even barren land.
In the Kiefer Creek Watershed we would like to foster the restoration of robust native flora, fauna, and animal species. Because the watershed is home to a substantial amount of development, the subsequent roads, lawns, and parking lots have fragmented what would naturally be a large contiguous area of forests, glades, and wetlands. Because the habitat of the watershed and the region has become fragmented, species that require large areas to thrive are less likely to inhabit the watershed. To begin studying the fragmentation of the landscape in Kiefer Creek we have used some interesting new data to isolate and measure the height of the vegetatiive area in the watershed. As you can see below, the Kiefer Creek Watershed has been broken into many small fragments in the nothern and eastern portions of the watershed.
If we pull back a ways and look at the areas surrounding the Kiefer Creek Watershed Area, you can see that the watershed really does stand out as an area wedged between intensive deforestation and effective conservation, with a mix of both within its bounds.
Restoring Riparian Zones
Riparian zones are key to preserving healthy creeks. The riparian zone is the area bordering the creek, providing the creek’s last defense against runoff and erosion.
Much of the creek in the park has healthy riparian zones – the creek runs through the beautiful forests of the park, giving plenty of room for water to be filtered and stored. But in certain areas, there is no buffer at all: the creek directly borders a road or an area of mown lawn. This is where you see some of the worst erosion of the creek bed.
In response to this problem, we are working to restore the riparian zones in Castlewood. Working with our partnering organizations, we are moving to convert a few key areas of the park to native plants. We’ve chosen locations that would provide a lot of value to the creek as restored forests or prairies, and we’ve also considered which areas are least used by visitors to the park.
Why Riparian Zones?
Reduces erosion and pollution: Water traveling towards to the creek will be absorbed by the plants in the riparian zone, allowing the water to be filtered and stored. But if the creek is bordered by mown lawn or pavement, the water rushes directly into the creek – speeding up erosion and sending pollutants from the ground directly into the creek.
Reduces landscape fragmentation: Landscape fragmentation is one of the biggest factors affecting how much bio-diversity an area can support.
Native Plant Demonstrations
In our time in Castlewood last spring, we noticed that there are spots of mown lawn that collect water and turn into muddy puddles for most of the spring. The grass does not have deep enough roots to absorb the water. These areas are ripe for a rain garden of native plants. Along with absorbing the water that collects in these areas, the rain garden will serve as an example for homeowners who may have a similar problem or who like the look of a native plant-based garden.
The garden will have a mix of plant life – providing beautiful sights, fragrant flowers, and shade in a highly used area of the park. Along with improving the absorption of water in the park, the garden will be an educational tool for homeowners in the watershed – educating them on what a rain garden can look like and how it can affect the watershed.
Helping Homeowners Restore the Watershed
Promoting homeowner-based watershed restoration begins with education. Projects such as the rain garden demonstration in Castlewood will help to spread awareness of what homeowners can do, and other educational programs will be included in our watershed plan.
Today, we are working with the St. Louis Audubon Society to promote their project that helps homeowners restore native plants to their homes. “Bring Conservation Home” provides inexpensive landscaping consulations with trained specialists. Their consultation helps you create a plan to plant native plants, remove invasive species, reduce stormwater runoff, and increase habitat for birds and other native wildlife.