Management of The Wade Tract Preserve

Click on photo to view larger imageUnlike many sites, the overall management goal for the Wade Tract Preserve is to perpetuate and at times enhance the old-growth condition of the Preserve so that it can function as a research natural area. The narrow management goal leads to a fairly simple management program of applying prescribed burns with suitable frequency to maintain the old-growth characteristics of the Tract.

A road established long before the easement was created runs north-south through the middle of the preserve and has been used to divide the preserve into eastern and western management units. Historically, the entire preserve was burned annually in later winter or early spring (March-April). However, in 1982, fire management moved toward prescribed burns occurring during the early part of the lightning season (May-June). Currently, half of the preserve is usually burned each year during the lightning season.

The effects of this shift to lightning-season burns are fairly obvious in the pictures below. The left-hand picture shows the preserve back in 1984 before the lightning-season burn schedule was implemented. The ground cover is dominated by a carpet-like layer of bracken ferns. The right-hand shot shows the preserve today with an increased dominance of wiregrass and other grasses. Note also the absence of young pines in the left-hand photo — a result of little-to-no pine recruitment during the years when annual burns were applied. There have been subtle changes in the bird communities as a result of this shift. Eastern meadowlark was a more common breeding bird back in 1984 (approximately 6 territories in 1984 versus 1-2 currently), and other subtle changes have likely occurred for other species.

Click on photo to view larger image Click on photo to view larger image

Click on photo to view larger imageAdditional management is limited primarily to hand mowing small areas where numerous hardwoods have become established and also protecting large trees that have scars from box cuts (see Forestry). These scars often ignite during prescribed burns and over time lead to higher mortality. From 1996-99, small-scale burns (see image to above right) were used to protect ancient tress with scars, but mowing with a gas-powered weed-whacker has proven to be quicker and equally effective.

The Preserve is managed by the Research Staff of Tall Timbers. Jim Cox, Vertebrate Ecology, serves as the site coordinator and primary contact with the land owner.

More Information About The Wade Tract Preserve