Land Management at SCBI

As steward of over 3200 acres of grasslands, forests, and streams, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is responsible for ensuring the health of a lot of land. Native plants underpin local ecological communities by supporting populations of native insects and herbivores, as well as the broader food-web network. So, SCBI actively manages several, otherwise-idle sites in order to make them into havens for native species.

Racetrack Hill Meadow

Seeking to increase the biodiversity and reduce the carbon footprint of an abandoned pasture south of Racetrack Hill, SCBI converted the 15 acre field into native meadows. The field was planted with purpletop grass and a mix of native flowers, which naturally complements an adjacent apiary by providing ample foraging and nesting habitat for those bees. While parts of the meadow are managed with rotational mowing, prescribed fire, and herbicide spot-treatment, significant portions are left untouched in order to support migratory and wintering populations of birds and mammals. Finally, embracing the concept of hand-on learning, SCBI also conducts training sessions for vegetation survey techniques at this site.

Hay Meadows Redmon

In 2009, after researchers completed a research project studying autumn olive (Eleagnus undifolia), they cleared all aboveground vegetation from an area. Subsequently, SCBI planted the area with native warm season grasses, including big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), to create a new native meadow. Part of the area is cut each summer for food and bedding for animals living at SCBI, while the rest is managed for wildlife; that is, some areas are mowed, burned, or treated with herbicide on a rotating basis, and others are left idle all year long to provide cover for bird and mammal populations.

Invasive Species Management

Kudzu, be warned: invasive species are not welcome here. To control the spread of invasives like autumn olive (Eleagnus undifolia), wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus, subsp. Undulatifolius), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), SCBI staff conduct numerous treatments to remove plants, destroy their seeds, and prevent their reestablishment. These treatments include mechanical removal of weeds with heavy machinery, manual removal with hand pulling and digging, prescribed burns to destroy plants and the underlying seedbed, and the application of herbicide in selective areas and spot-treatment of plant stumps.

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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
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