|INTERVIEW with Roger Barber, Researcher, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves
What do you do to preserve plants and natural areas in Ohio?
I maintain two native grass prairies, one at the Department of Natural Resources and another at the Ohio State Fair. I also collect field data about rare and native plants in the preserves and natural areas managed by our division. For example, at Irwin Prairie several of us at the division have been measuring the results of eco-management methods used to control an invasive plant called glossy buckthorn. This invasive has overgrown large areas of the prairie threatening native plants and their habitat.
How do you collect data about plants?
We rely on a scientific procedure to take careful measurements over time after using a particular management method. For example, in one area at Irwin Prairie, where a herbicide was used to kill a large stand of glossy buckthorn, we have been taking measurements and recording data annually to document how well native prairie plants are re-colonizing the area. We began collecting data by establishing transects before the dead stands of buckthorn were mechanically removed. The picture to the left shows the stand of glossy buckthorn a year after it was sprayed with herbicide.
What is a transect and how does it help you collect data?
A transect is a line placed on the ground from one point to another. The points are fixed by driving an iron bar into the ground that remains there permanently so we can record data at the same exact location each year.
Along the transect we place squares, or what we call sampling frames. We observe and record which types of plants are growing within each frame, including the percentage of space they take up within the square. Each transect is long enough to place 15 to 20 frames. The picture here shows a colleague and I using one of these frames. This picture was taken three years after the stand of buckthorn was killed and removed from the transect area.
So what does your data indicate at this time?
As the picture shows, the glossy buckthorn has been replaced with sedges and grasses that are native to the prairie. We did not have to plant these sedges and grasses because prior to removing the glossy buckthorn, we identified stems of these plants growing in a suppressed state beneath the clumps of buckthorn.
What is most challenging about your job?
Trying to figure out why plants do what they do. Sometimes they grow in places where we do not expect them to grow. In other situations, the reverse is true. Understanding the dynamics of plant life and habitat can be very challenging.