The types of tree or shrub species in a woodland depends on the soil, light, and topography. Are you on a hill with lots of sun? You're more likely to find species like oaks and hickories. Along a river where the ground is sometimes soggy? You'll find trees like cottonwoods, silver maples, or basswoods. Iowa has many native tree and shrub species.
Woodlands have high value for many species of mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles. They provide food sources like nuts, flowers, and leaves, and shelter for raising young or riding out harsh weather.
All woodlands go through succession, where new tree or shrub species fill in over time and change the composition of the woodland. We'll often try to halt the succession process at a stage that provides the most wildlife habitat or recreation value. For instance, a handful of SCC properties were once savannas, a plant community with sparsely scattered oak and hickory trees that depended on fire to stay healthy. Without fire, other tree and shrub species slowly crept in, altering the critical savanna habitat on which a number of Iowa's wildlife species depend. In these areas, SCC is setting back succession by removing the undesirable species and restoring the area to its historic landscape.
Other management goals might include mitigating invasive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer. In SCC parks, we're either treating or removing trees and replacing them with other native species.
Management tools used to keep woodlands healthy include grazing, girdling (killing trees but leaving them standing), brush mowing, burning, selective cutting or thinning in overcrowded areas, herbicide to battle undesirable species, and planting. Any time you're healing a landscape, it takes time, patience, and a variety of techniques. It can sometimes look worse before it looks better! Please contact us if you have questions about restoration work in SCC parks.