Botanists surveying plant life in Clayton County forests
By Molly Moser
According to Bill Watson, of Cedar Falls, “The forest is changing as we speak.” He and Dr. William Norris, professor of biology at Western New Mexico University, have devoted themselves to the long term monitoring of forest vegetation in the Paleozoic Plateau of northeast Iowa. For several weeks this June, Watson and Norris have been measuring herbaceous plants on thirteen 20x50 meter plots, distributed among five sites throughout Clayton, Dubuque, and Winneshiek counties.
This year the two men are studying plots at Turkey River Mounds, Merrit Forest, and Retz Memorial Woods in Clayton County, as well as at White Pine Hollow and Malanaphy Springs, as part of a 10-year resurvey of grasses, sedges, ferns, and wildflowers in these areas.
This is the final year in a three-year cycle of herbaceous plant study on roughly 15 plots in the Iowa State Preserve System. Norris and Watson completed the first three-year cycle a decade ago. Between the two men, counts are taken in the same plots during spring, summer, and fall of the year of study.
“This forms a foundation for forest dynamics for the next 100 years,” explains Watson. He and Norris are conducting a similar study on woody plants in the Iowa State Preserve System, and will begin that 20-year resurvey in 2015. Norris says the resurveys will continue “as long as we’re standing.”
Continued in the pages of The Guttenberg Press