Soil characteristics changes in a restored prairie
Prairies and wetlands were once abundant in southeastern Ohio, but habitat loss due to anthropogenic land uses has made remnants scarce. A fourteen acre, forty foot deep area was excavated for sand and gravel for use in highway construction in Green County near Dayton, Ohio in the late 1980s. Currently this area is part of a 108 acre nature preserve that contains a mix of woodlands, wetlands and now prairies. Restoration efforts of the excavated area started shortly after termination of the excavation. The area was planted in 1986 with native prairie vegetation with the goal of restoring it to an Eastern tall grass prairie. In 1988 the property was declared an Ohio Natural Landmark by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Since the initial restoration efforts, several projects have looked at the plant community, invasive species, and other characteristics of the restored prairie. In May 2004 soil samples were taken at transects that run both north-south and east-west through the restored prairie. The samples were divided into an A horizon and B horizon based on the soil color and presence of organic material. This process of sampling was repeated in May 2014, 10 years later. This research highlights the soil changes that have occurred between 2004 and 2014 with respect to organic matter, soil texture, nutrient levels and trace metals.
Over the ten years span, soil properties such as organic matter content have increased both in the surface soil and subsoil to about 25 cm. Factors that contributed to the increase of organic matter in soils include periodic burning of the grasses and increased vegetative growth. Other soil characteristics such as pH and soil texture have not changed significantly. Further analysis on plant community density and species diversity changes over the ten years are being investigated.