Nisku Native Prairie Park Reserve
by Patsy Cotterill
Nisku Prairie is a 31- acre remnant of aspen parkland protected as municipal reserve, “Nisku Native Prairie Park Reserve,” by Leduc County since 1994. It is located south of Edmonton in Leduc County east of the Nisku Industrial Area and south of Secondary Highway 625. Then local acreage resident Birgit Friedenstab “discovered” the site in 1993 and successfully convinced Leduc County of its ecological significance and need for more formal protection and management.
The landscape consists of aspen groves interspersed with grasslands, and it is this latter community, dominated by plains rough fescue (Festuca hallii) and habitat for numerous species of forbs, that is of the most interest. Typical prairie forbs include prairie crocus, three-flowered avens, prairie buttercups, golden bean, bastard toadflax, heart-leaved alexanders, Richardson’s alumroot, veiny meadow-rue, meadow blazingstar, cinquefoils, asters (Symphyotrichum species), goldenrods, and fleabanes. A provincially uncommon grass, Canada ricegrass (Piptatheropsis canadensis) grows in the Prairie. A shrub, narrow-leaved meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), forms patches in the moister spots, but its distribution does not extend west of Edmonton. A total of 140 species have been recorded for the site of which approx. 23 acres are covered more or less completely with native vegetation.
The Prairie is managed jointly by Leduc County and the Alberta Native Plant Council under a joint stewardship and management agreement which was renewed in 2011. Leduc County maintains the infrastructure including signs and fences, and will mow and herbicide if requested. ANPC is responsible for promoting awareness of its natural history, and also for providing volunteers to undertake various stewardship tasks such as weed and aspen control as well as rehabilitation projects such as growing and transplanting native plants in disturbed areas. In 2004 Alan Robertson of High Range Consultants conducted a grazing capacity survey, based on an earlier comprehensive soils study by Ed Karpuk, soils specialist, with a view to allowing limited grazing of the site to control aspen and litter build-up. This management technique was never implemented. In addition, we are currently attempting to rehabilitate with natives a disturbed area near the entrance, for which we are in constant need of volunteers, especially people with interest and expertise in gardening and restoration.
We endeavour to hold one or two field trips per year, including an early spring walk to monitor the prairie crocus population. We could do more with more volunteers. It would be desirable to set up some permanent sample plots in order to assess changes to the vegetation and the efficacy of management. We plan to do a census of plants this year. Anyone wishing to volunteer at Nisku Prairie should contact Patsy Cotterill at firstname.lastname@example.org
A field trip will take place on July 25, 2015 in conjunction with the Botany Conference 2015 being held in Edmonton. There is no fee, but participants will need to register with the conference administration to take part.
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