News Flash

Urban Biologist

Posted on: August 24, 2016

Urban Biologist Working to Save Endangered Blackland Prairie

Native Blackland Prairie Small Final.jpg

Dallas Park and Recreation received help from three of the state’s top plant and prairie experts to conduct a formal assessment of White Rock’s prairie remnants. Read how the department is working to improve the conditions of this endangered ecosystem.

The City of Dallas has some very unique natural resource assets. One of the most unique is the prairie remnant found around White Rock Lake. There are several different types of prairie plant communities found on the 14 remnants, but historically speaking the area falls under “blackland prairie”.

Blackland prairies are a temperate grassland ecoregion located in Texas that runs roughly 300 miles from the Red River through the Dallas Fort Worth into San Antonio. The prairie is named after its rich dark soil, which makes it ideal for crop agriculture. Unfortunately, many blackland prairies were converted to crop production, making the tallgrass the most-endangered large ecosystem in North America.

White Rock’s remnants are especially unique because they are located on shallow soil on top of chalk. Thanks to the diversity of remnants, over 300 species of plants have been recorded. That is truly special considering the location and development around White Rock Lake.

Dallas Park and Recreation Department strives to balance environmental stewardship with providing quality recreational opportunities for citizens.
Dallas Park and Recreation received help from three of the state’s top plant and prairie experts to conduct a formal assessment of White Rock’s prairie remnants. It was all in an effort to assess the current condition of the remnants, and to better plan for their maintenance. Nearly 162 acres were assessed based on their biological diversity, abundance of invasive species and overall management challenges.

The prairie assessment found several types of prairie communities, in various conditions. One location is made up of about 3-acres of a Globally Rare plant community, called gilgai-eastern gamagrass. It takes a special set of conditions between soils and plants to create an undulating effect across the area. As it stands now, roughly 19 percent of the prairie is in “poor” condition, 60 percent is “moderate”, and 20 percent is in “excellent” condition. There are issues with invasive plant species like Johnsongrass and Queen Anne’s Lace, and encroachment of woody species from both volunteer plants and intentional planting.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Department will use the assessment as a benchmark for improving the overall prairie remnants. The first phase includes the implementation of a new rotating mowing cycle, and removal of some woody species of plants within it prairie areas. Remnants in poor condition will be mowed now. Remnants in moderate conditions will be mowed mid-October and remnants in good condition will be mowed mid-December, pending any fire or migratory animal issues.

How can you get involved? We are developing an “Adopt-a-Prairie” program and we’re encouraging conservation groups, civic organizations and neighborhood associations to join us in keeping our prairies looking beautiful.

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