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A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Need for Speed (Where Conservation is Concerned)

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

Can you imagine using jackhammers and diamond-cutting saws to benefit an ecosystem?

Sometimes, it's a necessity!

Black-spored quillwort and mat-forming quillwort are to plant species that grow near Atlanta, Georgia.

These grass-like ferns can be found near shallow pools on granite outcrops and in large areas of rock that rise above otherwise flat land. Both species are fragile because habitat loss and degradation have caused their populations have dwindled. They're therefore listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Some people view this plant as plain ole’ grass, but quillwort conservation supports a healthy ecosystem and benefits other plant and animal species. This is a prime example of how the ecosystem and wildlife depend on one another.

Which is where the jackhammers and diamond-cutting saws come in.

replant(Photo: USFWS)

Restoring habitat for these tiny plants proved to be a large task for us and our partners. Under completely natural conditions, pools that support the species at the right size and location on the outcrops take several thousand years to form, a timeline that made the quillwort rare even before humans came on the scene.

Working with partners at Plum Creek Timber Company and Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, we've created a recovery program that focuses on recreating habitat for the plants.

But digging shallow holes in granite requires something harder than a shovel.

Diamond cutting saws and bobcat-mounted jackhammers are used to cut, chip, and shape, four- to six-inch deep depressions with a solid rock rim about five to 15 feet in diameter.

Once the holes are dug at just the right spot on the mountain outcrop, botanists then wait for enough rain to accumulate for the plants life cycle to kick in. The Georgia Botanical Garden grows the plants, and then places them into the new pools after enough rain water is collected.

Get all the details by visiting our ESA success story page.

Each week, throughout this ruby anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, we’ll highlight stories of conservation success in every state across the country. Stay tuned!

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