Prairie & Wetland Restoration Projects

Beginning in 1991, the land management office at St. John’s began to restore a former hayfield along the northern edge of campus to its former state. Based upon Abbey records, this was believed to be tallgrass prairie in the higher areas with wetlands in lower areas along the Watab river. In the prairie areas, about 90 species of native plants were reintroduced, many planted by hand. One of the greatest challenges being faced in the wetland restoration project is the removal of large areas of the introduced reed canary grass.

Prairie Restoration Project

Right: Controlled burns of a portion of St. John's tallgrass prairie restoration project are carried out every spring by the land management office. Though the fires may seem destructive as they race through the previous year's dried vegetation, they are an attempt to recreate a natural feature of tallgrass prairie that was critical in maintaining the diversity of this rare habitat. Below: The aftermath of a controlled burn. The blackened surface will warm quickly and soon will be covered with a diversity of prairie grasses and forbs. Nutrients released by the fire will spur the growth of big bluestem, Indian grass, and Canada wild rye to heights of 2 meters or more by late July.

Below: Students in an ecology class sample the vegetation of an unburned depression in the restoration area to compare its composition to nearby burned areas. This project highlights the fact that fire does not influence prairies uniformly; fire is in fact an important source of environmental diversity in prairie ecosystems.

The St. John’s Prairie Restoration Project now sports a wonderful diversity of native plant species.

Wetland Restoration Project

St. John's Campus has a variety of aquatic habitats, including cattail marshes, lakes, permanent and temporary ponds, swamps, and sedge meadows. The University's land management office has undertaken an ambitious wetland restoration project that involves removal of exotic species and reintroduction of native wetland plants. Students are actively involved in the fieldwork associated with the restoration project. Left: This view looking eastward from the St. John's prairie restoration shows a transition from prairie to open water in the foreground and one from open water to deciduous forest in the background.

Above, Left: Duckweed coats a quiet opening among rushes and cattails. Above, Right: A small orchid nestles among the sedges and cattails. Below, Left: A sedge meadow spreads out between the prairie and woodlands. Below, Right: A blue flag iris shows off its beauty among a backdrop of sedges.