Document Type



Midwestern landscapes, oak savannas, historical data, GIS, ecological restoration


Over one hundred and fifty years of Euro-American settlement has dramatically altered Midwestern landscapes, resulting in the widespread conversion of native habitat. Numerous opportunities to conduct ecological restoration exist within the Midwest, with the potential to increase habitat and landscape heterogeneity, secure critical ecosystem services, and provide opportunities for research and education. Site history is an important consideration for most restoration projects, and multiple sources of historical data may be required to unravel the complicated history of intensively used Midwestern landscapes. The collection of baseline data is another significant component of most restoration projects, allowing for an evaluation of community responses to restoration treatments. Here we integrate a variety of historical data sources in a GIS environment, including data derived from the original Public Land Survey of Iowa, maps from historic state atlases, aerial photography, and informal interviews to develop a landscape history (1840-2004) of a prairie-savanna complex undergoing restoration in central Iowa. Furthermore, we collect baseline data relative to the present-day state of the on-site floral and faunal communities. Analysis of landscape history suggests that the study site represents a remnant bur oak savanna that has undergone significant changes in response to fire-suppression and to removal of grazing livestock. Baseline data was collected on the distribution and abundance of bur oaks, a defining savanna species, and revealed a flourishing population across multiple size classes. Both field and observational data on the onsite mammal community reveal the presence of numerous mammal species ranging widely in morphology, diet, and behavior. Continuing restoration of the study site will be informed by the landscape history developed in this study, as well as by the baseline data that was collected.

Publication Date

January-December 2008

Journal Title

Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science





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© Copyright 2009 by the Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.



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