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Seeking a Lost Landscape: Oak Savanna in Wisconsin
Speaker: Dr. Mark Leach
Location: River Falls Public Library, main level meeting room
Savannas were once the dominate form of vegetation found in much of Wisconsin and adjacent Minnesota.
They were composed of well-spaced trees – mostly oaks or in some places also pines – creating a shifting mosaic of sun and shade below. Fires swept through these systems, constraining the growth of fire-sensitive species.
Early conservationists essentially ignored savannas – including what they called “oak openings” – describing them as “prairie with trees.”
Research by Mark Leach and others revealed oak savannas to be floristically rich, as well as providing crucial habitat for many regionally declining animal species. In his talk, Dr. Leach will discuss the exceptional conservation opportunity locally to identify, protect, and restore thousands of acres of currently overgrown, fire-suppressed oak savanna. Regionally, hundreds of volunteers involved in bringing back these lost landscapes have been amazed and moved by the results.
Dr. Leach is an authority on grassland fire ecology and is a restoration ecologist with a Ph.D. in botany from U.W. Madison. He has taught at U.W. Stout, Northland College, and U.W. Madison. He has written several scientific papers on the ecology of oak savanna, prairie, and their rare plants and insects.