Increasing Biodiversity in Prairies

Prairie once covered 1/3 of Minnesota. Today only a little more than 1% of native prairie remains. Prairie is a key habitat for 34 Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and for many at-risk pollinators in Minnesota. It is important to maintain and enhance the little prairie that is remaining to help out these important species. Anoka County Parks maintains prairie habitat on County land with prescribed burns every 3 to 5 years. ACD helped manage weeds before the scheduled burns and overseeded a custom seed mix for each site after the burns. The native seed mixes contain species that are minimally present or not present at all the prairie units. Species that benefit at-risk pollinators were included in the mixes. The goal is to enhance the prairies by reducing non-native weeds and increasing native biodiversity. 

Pre-burn, August 2022, showing weedy hoary alyssum. ACD conducted weed control in 2023
Sally, ACD Seasonal District Technician, assisted Anoka Parks and Red Rock Fire with the Pasture Unit prescribed fire earlier this fall and is pictured here seeding on bare soil.

Bunker Hills Regional Park Pasture Unit includes a wetland depression surrounded by dry prairie. Site preparation involved controlling non-native woody encroachment and monoculture patches were sprayed or mowed. ACD overseeded following a prescribed burn in the fall. The seed mix contained 41 different forb species and 5 different grass species. A mix of wildflowers provided pollen and nectar sources for several endangered species of Bumble Bees. For more information contact Carrie Taylor, Restoration Ecologist, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Landowner Story

Landowner prairie restoration: Site prep and seeding in 2022

 From Landowner, City of Andover:

Thanks for the encouragement, it's been quite the journey. So many more pollinators, less wasp problems around our house, and more butterflies! Even though there are lots of weed problems (buckthorn), crown vetch, and garlic mustard. And this is with one year of site prep! Crazy stuff… it is very encouraging to see how creation relies on each part of each other and the interaction between plants, animals, bees, etc. is fascinating to watch!

There were no current cost share funds available but ACD has been providing technical assistance to many landowners who are interested in starting prairies. Throughout Anoka County there is a lot of interest in prairie restoration.

For more information contact Carrie Taylor, Restoration Ecologist, Carrie.TaylorThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Prairie Enhancement at Gordie Mikkelson WMA

There has been a flurry of activity in the Gordie Mikkelson WMA prairies this spring. ACD is working with the MN DNR, Native Resource Preservation, and Linwood Elementary School to enhance 9.3 acres of prairie and add more species of native grasses and wildflowers in the already established windswept prairie. The 840-acre Gordie Mikkelson WMA is ranked as high biodiversity by the MN Biological Survey, and is an example of the mosaic Anoka Sand Plain landscape, containing a diversity of native plant communities including oak woodlands, sedge meadows, wetlands, and swamps. The MN DNR restored three grassland areas in Gordie Mikkelson WMA to native dry prairie. A remaining 9.3 acres are now undergoing restoration/enhancement. The goal is to convert these areas mostly dominated by non- native smooth brome and quackgrass to a dry prairie plant community (UPs13/Southern Upland Prairie System). Native Resource Preservation (NRP) conducted site preparation herbicide treatments in fall 2019 and fall 2020. The MN DNR conducted a prescribed burn in spring 2021 and NRP spread a diverse seed mix following the Rx burn and will follow up with establishment mowing. The already established windswept prairie is near the Linwood Elementary School and along the trail to their School Forest. This location provides a great opportunity to create a diverse prairie for future seed collection. ACD staff and 16 Linwood Elementary School classes planted 28 different species of plant plugs to add diversity and start a seed source that can be collected and spread to other prairies in the Mikkelson WMA.

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