Sand Prairie is a rare community found in Kansas and Nebraska. It once covered a large area south of the Great Bend region of the Arkansas River, but now exists only in isolated, small parcels. Most of Quivira's uplands are Sand Prairie. Since European settlement in the 1870s, three main land use practices have impacted Quivira's prairies: farming, grazing by cattle, and tree planting. Today, many of Quivira's prairies are suffering from heavy encroachment of woody plants. Invasive trees abound in some areas (most of which are non-native species such as Russian Olive, Honeylocust, and Siberian Elm), sometimes growing in large woodlots with no native component in the understory. A native shrub called Sand Plum often grows in thick, monotypic stands, crowding out grasses and forbs. Other areas of Sand Prairie have become dominated by non-native forbs and grasses.
Restoration occurs in two main phases: removal of unwanted vegetation, and planting of native species. Removal is conducted both to reduce woody plant coverage and to discourage spread, and is often conducted in several phases, combining prescribed fire, mechanical removal, grazing by cattle, and/or chemical treatment by herbicide. Specialized heavy equipment is used to cut and stack trees. Smaller trees (seedlings) and brush can be cut using a tractor-mounted brush hog. Herbicide is usually applied to freshly-cut stumps. Prescribed burns can assist either before or after mechanical removal (or both). Sand Plum control usually requires repeated treatment over several growing seasons. Herbicide treatment, also usually combined with other control methods, is often used to control invasive, non-native plants such as Bull Thistle, Cheatgrass, and Common Reed (Phragmites). Herbicides can be applied via either a backpack sprayer or tractor-mounted boom sprayer.
After removal of unwanted woody plants and/or herbaceous, native prairie species are then planted via broadcasting or seed drill. Prairie grasses such as Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, and Sand Lovegrass are planted, along with a wide variety of native forbs such as Blazing Star, Round-head Lespedeza, and Coreopsis. Some areas may have to undergo several plantings, and other management methods will continually be used, such as prescribed fire and mechanical plant removal.
Mechanical removal of Eastern Redcedar
Over the years, both before and after the establishment of the Refuge, dozens of water impoundments were constructed. Most were designed as deep water units, the configuration of which made them difficult to quickly drain and refill. Through a process called "re-contouring", large quantities of soil fill are spread evenly throughout the unit, resulting in a fairly shallow water basin of equal depth.
Other management practices that restore or enhance wetlands include the mechanical and chemical control of Cattail and Common Reed, two species that have invaded and taken over large areas of wetland communities at Quivira. For both species, prescribed fire is combined with mowing and herbicide application over several treatments. Cattle grazing also assists management by soil compaction and control of stem regrowth.
Re-contouring a water unit
Follow Us Online
The tallest North American bird, and one of the rarest: now numbering about 600 in the world, there were once as few as 16.